About 900 prisoners escaped from a prison in the Democratic Republic of Congo early Tuesday after armed men attacked him, Reuters and local journalists reported. A local official attributes the operation to an Islamist rebel group.
The attack in Benny, in the northeast of the country, was aimed at the central Kangbay prison and the military camp that protects it, the mayor of the city of Modeste Bakwanamaha told Reuters on Tuesday morning. The mayor said only 100 of the more than 1,000 inmates remained in prison.
“Unfortunately, the attackers, who came in large numbers, managed to break the door with electrical equipment,”
No group immediately claimed responsibility, but Mr Baquanamaha blamed the Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamist militant group from neighboring Uganda that has been operating in eastern Congo for decades.
Congolese officials could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday morning, and there was no comment from the official Twitter page of President Felix Tishekedi’s office. Mr Chisekedi took office last year after declaring victory in a presidential election that was considered illegal.
Congo is a huge country where the central government has limited scope, and Benny is in an area that has long been troubled by violence.
Tuesday’s attack appears to reflect one of 2017, in which gunmen stormed Kangbay prison and released approximately the same number of prisoners. At the time, local news reports said the perpetrators claimed to be Ugandan members of the Allied Democratic Forces.
Last year, the Islamic State news agency said it was the group’s first attack in the Congo, saying its troops attacked a military barracks in the Benny area, killing eight people. Congolese authorities have confirmed an attack in the area, but said the attackers were from the Allied Democratic Forces. A report by a Congolese research group from New York University for 2018 says that the ADF has received money from a financier linked to Islamic State.
Allied Democratic forces have been accused of killing hundreds of people. In 2016, a military court in Benny began trials against the group’s fighters and their allies.
Lucha, a human rights group in the Congo, said in a statement Tuesday that the suspension of the prison had released several high-ranking criminals involved in previous armed attacks. He called on local authorities to take swift action.
“Serious measures must be taken to capture the fugitives,” the group said in a statement.