Nigeria: what we know about the attack on Kuje prison

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The attack carried out against this penitentiary establishment on the outskirts of Abuja was claimed by the Islamic State in West Africa. “Prison Break (famous American series) is in Abuja”, has quipped a Nigerian internet user when speaking of the incredible attack by the Islamic State in West Africa against Kuje prison, in the federal capital of Nigeria.

Between Tuesday and Wednesday, fighters from this terrorist group besieged this remand center to release 879 detainees, including major jihadists. Among them are members of Jamaat Ahl Al-Sunnah Lil Dawa Wal Jihad (JASDJ), one of the factions that emerged from the split from Boko Haram, claims secmxx, the Twitter handle of a member of the open-source intelligence community from Nigeria.

According to him, “the attackers, made up of three assault groups, each with a specific task, came from their stronghold in the northeast”. The attack, lasting three hours according to media sources, “required a large number of men”, explains Vincent Foucher, observer of West African politics and jihadist movements.

At least 443 of the 879 escapees are still missing, but hundreds more have been arrested, said Umar Abubakar, spokesman for the Nigerian Correctional Service. He also said a prison guard and three police officers died in the assault.

In recent times, several specialists in jihadism have minimized the nuisance capabilities of Iswap. But for Mr. Foucher, the news “clearly shows that despite everything that some have tried to make believe, there remains a serious and audacious threat and must be treated as such”.

The offensive against this prison located not far from Abuja airport took place a few days before the celebration of Eid El-Kébir. On this occasion, there is a massive movement of people from the cities to the villages to celebrate the Muslim holiday with the family. Thus, the jihadists traveled “long distances” without arousing suspicion, argues secmxx. The latter now wonders what fate will be reserved for the members of JASDJ.

Clashes for the control of several territories, in particular the fertile lands around Lake Chad, are raging between the two terrorist groups. “What have they done or what will they do with detainees not affiliated with Iswap? Pretty big names. Did they kill them or will they kill them? Can they engage with them, work towards some sort of unity? asks Vincent Foucher.

In any case, the disconcerting ease with which the jihadists seized this medium-security prison provoked the ire of President Muhammadu Buhari, who was also dissatisfied with the intelligence system. Less than a year ago, an explosive attack on a prison in the south-east of the country, plagued by separatist unrest, allowed more than 1,800 prisoners to disappear into the wild.

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