No fewer than 2, 000 inmates at the headquarters of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCS), Owerri, Imo State were set free by unknown gunmen on Monday morning.
The gunmen also attacked the nearby office of the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID) of the state police command, also freeing suspects there.
The attackers burnt almost all the vehicles parked at the command headquarters and freed all the suspects in almost all the cells at the SCID.
SaharaReporters learnt that the gunmen operated in over 10 vehicles, and also attacked soldiers stationed at Umuorji along Owerri–Onitsha Expressway.
The attackers were said to have had a free rein during the operation that lasted about two hours and said to have started between 1 am and 2 am on Monday.
SaharaReporters learnt that the gunmen caused panic in the town as explosions were heard around the state police command headquarters and the NCC facility in Owerri.
“There was a jailbreak at the Owerri Correctional Centre around 4am after the gunmen struck. Soldiers have been called in to secure the facility but several inmates have fled,” a source reported.
“It was so loud hearing the sound from two miles away from prison but I thought it could be a burial wake keeping but to my greatest surprise, my phone rang and it was my boss calling to know if I was at the headquarters which was negative because I was already at home.
“Gunmen suspected to be members of Eastern Security Network were the ones who attacked the Imo State prison and set prisoners free before extending their onslaught to the police headquarters, Owerri and setting some sections ablaze. It happened around 1:40am and lasted for one or two hours at the heart of town,” another security official told SaharaReporters.
The attackers were alleged to be operatives of the Eastern Security Network set up by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra but this has not been established yet.
In a video clip obtained by SaharaReporters, the police station was set on fire by the gunmen as gunshots were still being fired.
A source said, “This is the aftermath of the destructive force of the gunmen suspected to be ESN on the Nigeria police headquarters in Imo State when gunmen attacked the police headquarters, they also went to the Nigeria correctional centre and freed prisoners; all these happened last night.”
This is the fifth attack on police headquarters across the state.
Four police divisional headquarters had been attacked since February. They include Obowo, Aboh Mbaise and Ihitte/Uboma, divisions.
Unknown gunmen on March 20 razed the Isiala Mbano Police Divisional Headquarters located at Umuelemai in Imo State.
The gunmen, invaded the divisional headquarters armoury and freed suspects in the detention facility and carted away arms.
It was gathered that the gunmen sacked police officers on duty, freed suspects, invaded the facility's arms storage department before setting it ablaze.
Four policemen allegedly sustained gunshot injuries from the invaders.
It was also stated that the culprits did not flee immediately but stayed by and supervised the burning of the police facility.
When contacted, the police spokesperson in the state, Orlando Ikeokwu, confirmed the attacks.