Congo-Kinshasa: Congo - Militants Free 1,300 Inmates in Beni Jailbreak

20 October 2020

Armed men have broken into a jail in eastern Congo and released almost all the prisoners. The local mayor said an Islamist militant group was behind the attack.

More than 1,300 inmates escaped from a prison in Beni, in eastern Congo, during an early morning jailbreak on Tuesday, authorities said.

The town's mayor, Modeste Bakwanamaha, said a large group of armed men managed to break into the Kangbayi central prison using welding equipment. By the time the operation was over, only about 110 of the 1,456 prisoners were left behind, he said.

"Unfortunately, the attackers, who came in large numbers, managed to break the door with electrical equipment," Bakwanamaha told the Reuters news agency.

Two inmates were shot dead during the assault, police said on Twitter.

Islamic State claims responsibility

Bakwanamaha said around 20 escapees had returned to the prison, and urged local residents in Beni not to protect those who were still on the run.

"We believe that it is the ADF who did this," he added, referring to the Allied Democratic Forces.

Islamic State said fighters from its Central African Province branch were behind the attack. The militant group has claimed responsibility for ADF attacks in the past, although UN experts have found no evidence the two are linked.

The ADF is an Islamist militant group from neighboring Uganda that has been active in eastern Congo since the 1990s. According to the United Nations, the group has killed more than 1,000 civilians since the start of 2019.

Prison breaks not uncommon

Escapes are not unusual in Congo's overcrowded prisons.

Hundreds of inmates escaped from the same Beni jail when it was attacked in June 2017.

nm/msh (Reuters, dpa)

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