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…We thought it was quarry workers detonating dynamite —residents

…Kidnappers of Abuja-Kaduna train passengers responsible for attack —Gumi’s spokesman, Mamu

By Kingsley Omonobi, Omeiza Ajayi, Luminous Jannamike, Fortune Eromosele, Ibrahim Wuyo & John Alechenu, ABUJA

Some residents of the Kuje Area Council who reside in close proximity to the medium security custodial centre in Abuja, which terrorists attacked with sophisticated weapons on Tuesday night, have recounted their experiences during the assault, which reportedly lasted over two hours and claimed no fewer than five lives.

This is even as Tukur Mamu, spokesman of popular Islamic cleric, Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, disclosed yesterday that the Ansaru sect, which kidnapped the Kaduna-Abuja train passengers in March, were responsible for the attack on the custodial centre.

Mamu also alleged he shared the intelligence on the attack with security agencies.

The attack, which led to the escape of 879 inmates and recapturing 436, sent shock waves around the precincts of the prisons, as residents fled into neighbouring communities to avoid being hit by stray bullets.

The over 200 Boko Haram terrorists did not only free all 69 members, who are inmates in the prisons, but also hundreds of others. But the Nigerian Correctional Services, NCoS, said all high-profile inmates, including former governors of Plateau and Taraba states, Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame, as well as former commander of Police IRT, DCP Abba Kyari, were still in custody

Narrating his ordeal yesterday, Damian Ayeneji, a youth leader in the area, said he witnessed the bomb blasts and sporadic gunshots at the premises and surroundings of the prisons.

According to him, some of the exchange of gunfire was between security agents and the gunmen, who stormed the custodial centre with the mission to rescue some inmates.

He explained that residents of the area assumed the first bomb blast, which went off around 10:00pm, was one of the dynamites that licensed rock crushers around Kuje typically used to quarry solid mineral matter.

However, he said they were taken aback when the second and the third bomb blasted off in quick succession, followed by sporadic gunshots.

Ayeneji said:  “It all started around 10:00pm. I was about to retire for the day. As a youth leader, I had left some of our local vigilantes.

“When I came back from the where I met our youths, I wanted to watch the television for a while before going to bed and all of a sudden, I heard a loud bang.

“Initially, I thought it was one of the dynamite blasts of rock crushers, which we hear from time to time, especially at night.

“So, I didn’t bother. But when I heard the second and third blasts, followed by sporadic gunshots, I became worried.

“At that point, I became afraid, wondering what could be happening. So, I tried to step outside to see for myself, but ran back inside the house and took cover when it was clear to me that it was an attack on the prisons.  The gunshots continued at intermittent intervals for over two hours.”

I fled my home with my kids, mother of three recounts experience

Also recounting her ordeal, another resident, who resides within the precincts of the prison, Ms. Grace Opadukun, said she fled her home during the exchange of gunfire between the terrorists and security operatives.

The mother of three, who escaped from her house with her kids to a church in Pasali Area of Kuje council, said she took the risk of fleeing the area that night because of her kids.

“We just came from the church around 7pm on Tuesday and I was waiting for my husband, who is a taxi driver to return before I go to bed. Around 10:15pm, I even spoke with him and he told me he was around Lugbe, heading home.

“A few minutes later, I started hearing gunshots. As I was still trying to make sense of what was happening, my neighbour rushed out, saying his cousin called on the phone to inform him that they sighted some people with what looked like guns trekking in large numbers through a plantation in the area.

“Before we knew what was happening, there were gunshots, as thick smoke billowed from the direction of the prison. It was then we knew that it was under a serious attack and we started running to a place of safety.

“I couldn’t imagine losing my three kids in the crossfire. I had woken my children from sleep and we all fled the area with some of my neighbours to a church in Pasali that night. We stayed there till this (yesterday) morning.”

Abba Kyari relives experience

Reliving his ordeal yesterday, DCP Abba Kyari who is an inmate in the prison, said:  ‘’Only God  saved us today (yesterday). For over two hours and 45 minutes, more than 300 terrorist took over the Kuje prison in Abuja with GPMGs, Bombs, RPGs, Many Rifles etc.

‘’The total population of the Kuje Prison inmates   is about 1,476, and only 111 of the inmates refused to escape and decided to remain in the prison as 90 per cent escaped.

‘’Those that decided not to escape include former governor Jolly Nyame of Taraba State, Farouk lawal, Abba Kyari and four of his officers, retired AVM and also 107 other inmates who have less than three months to finish their jail term.’’

Kidnappers of Abuja-Kaduna train passengers responsible for attack — Gumi’s spokesman, Mamu

However, Tukur Mamu, spokesman of popular Islamic cleric, Sheikh Gumi  alleged terrorists that attacked the Abuja-Kaduna train were also responsible for the Kuje prison attack, said yesterday:   “I had shared intelligence on the attack on Kuje prison with the security agencies and the committee that was constituted by CDS, General Lucky Irabor.

‘’I can confirm without doubt that the Kuje Correctional Centre attack was executed and co-ordinated by the same group that attacked the Abuja-Kaduna bound train, because they gave indications of imminent attacks to that effect, which I shared.

“For the records, they requested for the release of 51 of their members. But through power of dialogue and engagement, I was able to single-handedly scale that number to only 10 and communicated with audio backing the development to the relevant authorities.

“There was unnecessary delay on giving them even a precise feedback by the government and now they have not only succeeded in carrying out another successful attack that indicts the nature of our intelligence and capacity to respond promptly but have also succeeded in releasing dozens of their members, which would have been averted if action had been taken to give them only 10 and secure the release of the train victims.

“In all this risky, painful and frustrating engagement, which government is yet to acknowledge and appreciate, I have more than 100 documented audios that I shared with the relevant authorities. For the purpose of this important press release and  to authenticate my claims, I will also share four of the latest audios.

“For the records, since after our successful mission that led to the release of the 11 train victims, I have made up my mind then to disengage completely from this voluntary service to a nation that doesn’t appreciate sacrifices because of the above reasons and many more but I was instructed on humanitarian grounds by my principal, Sheikh Ahmad Abubakar Mahmud Gumi, to exercise patience and continue.

“But with the current sad development at the highest official level of government, I am formally announcing my withdrawal completely from this service and to announce to the world that my life is also being threatened.

‘’It should also be on record that if anything happens to me, certainly it is not the terrorists but within the corrupt society we are in. May Allah preserve the lives of the innocent victims of the train attack and may He secure their release in safety.”

ISWAP claims responsibility for Kuje attack

The Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) yesterday claimed responsibility for the attack on Kuje Prison in Abuja.

In a video footage  last night, the terrorist sect showed some of its men shooting their way into the facility.

Tens of fighters were seen marching in groups, while vehicles and building were on fire in the 38 seconds video.

An elderly man dressed in a native attire also joined the young men who were shouting on top of their voices.

The Islamic State’s A’maq Agency released the video with the caption: “Fighters of Islamic State attacked Kuje prison in Abuja yesterday and succeeded in freeing dozens of prisoners.”

The words were written in Arabic.

Soldiers guarding prisons removed 24 hours before attack

Security sources revealed yesterday that soldiers already used to the prisons were removed barely 24 hours before the attack.

Vanguard was told that the soldiers were due for redeployed as those deployed to replace them were yet to fully understand the terrain of the prison.

Security sources said the terrorists were able to beat checkpoints mounted by security agencies through the use of motorcycles.

One source said that when the terrorists wanted to commence the operation, they opened volleys of bullets sporadically to scare residents who took to their heels,  thus clearing the way for their operation.

Five killed, 879 inmates escaped, 443 recaptured, says NCoS

Giving further details on the attack yesterday, spokesman of the Service, Chief Superintendent Abubakar Umar, said suspended Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari and other high-profile inmates were still in custody, contrary to reports that he escaped.

Umar said:   “the attackers broke into the Medium Security Custodial Centre, Kuje using explosive devices through the main entrance and the fence of the facility respectively, killing a personnel of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, attached to the Custodial Centre and living three personnel of the Nigerian Correctional Service seriously injured.

“A total of 879 inmates escaped from the facility during the unfortunate attack. At the time of this report, 443 have been recaptured, 551 inmates are currently in custody, 443 inmates are still at large, four inmates died and 16 sustained various degrees of injuries and are being treated at the moment. However, efforts are on-going to recapture all fleeing inmates.

“The Service will deploy its Corrections Information Management System, CIMS, in synergy with National Identity Management Commission, NIMC, to track all fleeing inmates and return them to custody.

‘’This is also to confirm to the general public that DCP Abba Kyari and other VIPs held in the facility did not escape. They are currently  in custody, hale and hearty.

“Recall that after the attack at the Medium Custodial Centre in Agbolongo, Oyo state, the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, met with the heads of the security agencies under his supervision where the idea of Joint Security Taskforce, comprising the Nigerian Correctional Service, Nigerian Immigration Service, and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps was formed to forestall further breaches on custodial facilities.

“As at the time of the attack on the Kuje facility, we had 38 military personnel on ground, in addition to personnel of the Nigeria Police Force, Civil Defence, DSS and our Armed Squad.

This is the minister’s efforts to rejig the security architecture of our facilities.

“The public is also informed that some of the attackers were killed, while some escaped with gunshot wounds. We, therefore, appeal to hospitals and other medical institutions and practitioners to report anyone that comes to them for treatment for gunshot injuries to the nearest law enforcement agency.”

Defence minister verifies escape of 64 Boko Haram members

The Minister of Defence Maj Gen Bashir Magashi, retd, who was on an on-the-spot assessment of the scale of damage of the custodial centre caused by the attack, confirmed the escape of all 64 members of the Boko-Haram sect in the facility.

He said:  “Well, we too heard the attack. The incident started between 10 and 10:25 am, the security operatives recaptured some. What actually happened is they came in there numbers and released some of the inmates. We are now trying to check the kind of inmates they released.

‘’We are trying to see what we can do to see that all escapees within the prison accommodation are brought back to the prison yard.

‘’Many inmates are being recaptured. The people who came to do this from the records belong to a particular group.  From all indicators, they are Boko Haram.  Currently, we could not locate any of them, they are about 64 in number.’’.

Boko Haram responsible for attack; came very prepared – Interior Ministry

Corroborating the defence minister on those behind the attack yesterday, the Min istry of Interior said the Boko Haram sect was responsible.

Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Shuaib Belgore, who disclosed that about 600 inmates escaped from the prison, also confirmed that the terrorists attacked the facility with explosives, before embarking on sporadic shooting.

Belgore, who noted that the attackers came prepared, armed with sophisticated weapons, said:  “There have been several attacks on our facilities, most of them are being repelled, but every now, and then, there is no one they have succeeded. In the case of this one, they came very determined with high explosives.

“The initial entry attempt was unsuccessful, then they attacked the another section of the wall with higher grade explosives which brought the wall down. The forces on ground did everything they could to repel them, but they came in very large numbers.

“But the forces on ground kept on fighting gallantly, but unfortunately, the breach happened. Reinforcement came when the terrorists were halfway through it. They were eventually repelled. At the time they came in, they killed one NSCDC personnel who was trying to save the situation.

“The inmate here are 994. We understand they are Boko Haram terrorists and came specifically for their conspirators. Many of the inmates have returned, some were retrieved from the bushes they were hiding.

Belgore said the number of the assailants killed was yet to be ascertained, adding that one security operative was killed, while three others were wounded and were receiving treatment in undisclosed hospital.

Defence, Security forces take over Kuje Prisons, embark on aerial patrol

Meanwhile, security and intelligence personnel yesterday took over the Kuje Medium Security Custodial Centre, following Tuesday night’s attack.

A complement of personnel of the Nigerian Army, Department of State Services, DSS, and the armed squad of the Nigerian Correctional Service, NcoS, had before now provided security at the facility.

However, following the bomb attack on the facility, there is a heightened security presence in the area.

A police helicopter was also seen on aerial patrol of Kuje, while the regular cordon of the Custodial Centre has now been extended several metres away from the premises.

Vanguard observed that the Commandant General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps NSCDC, Dr Ahmed Abubakar Audi visited the facility, following reports that one of his armed personnel attached to the custodial centre was killed by the terrorists.

How can terrorists organize, have weapons, attack security installation, get away with it?  Buhari queries

Speaking while on a visit to the scene yesterday, President Muhammadu Buhari, who was in company of the Chief of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, Buhari, appeared shocked to see the level of devastation caused by the attac.

“How many inmates were in the facility? How many of them can you account for? How many personnel did you have on duty? How many of them were armed? Were there guards on the watchtower? What did they do? Does the CCTV work?

“How can terrorists organize, have weapons, attack a security installation and get away with it?” the President queried

He was, however, informed that security agencies had recapture more than 350 escapees, while efforts were on to recapture over 400 others.

The President, who was briefed about the attack by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Interior, Dr. Shuaib Mohammad Lamido Belgore, and the Controller General of Nigerian Correctional Service,  Haliru Nababa, was shown the bombed-out section used to access  the records office which was set on fire.

Buhari was told that, at the end, none of the 64 terrorists was accounted for, but that their records were, however, not affected

One suspect reportedly caught after hot chase

However, operatives of the Nigeria Correctional Service yesterday apprehended a suspected terrorist involved in the attack on the medium security custodial centre in Kuje, Abuja on Tuesday night.

The suspect, who claimed to be a DSS personnel, was apprehended by the NCS operatives near Kwali after a hot chase.

Nabbed yesterday morning, the suspect is said to have been taken to a secret detention facility where he is cooling his heels..

An impeccable security source, who spoke in confidence, disclosed this in an exclusive chat  Vanguard  at the Kuje medium security custodial centre.

He said the suspect appeared to possess an excellent knowledge of the terrain around the custodial facility. 

Narrating how the suspect was nabbed, the source said: “This morning, officers were mobilised and detailed to comb the bushes and forests around the custodial centre for any traces of the terrorists who perpetrated the attack.

“Because we knew the terrorists came to Kuje through the Kwali Area Council, we extended our search that Kwali. About 1KM away from the town, after the quarry site, we saw some people meandering in the bush.

“But as soon as they saw us, they took to their heels. However, we gave them a hot chase and apprehended one of them after releasing three gunshots into the air at close range and threatening to drop him dead, if he made any further move.”

The source, who gave other insider details of what happened during the attack, added: “Before the suspect was nabbed, he and his cohorts ran through the forests so skillfully in a manner that showed they had a remarkable mastery of the terrain.

“The farmers who saw us after we caught disclosed that the suspect had earlier told them he was a DSS operative carrying out a special mission in the forest. He is already providing is with useful information.”   

However, as of 7:42pm, the FCT Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Josephine Adeh, is yet to confirm the arrest as she did not pick her calls or reply a message sent to her.

Atiku raises alarm over Abuja’s security

Reacting to the attack yesterday, the presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the 2023 elections,  Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, expressed fears over the level of insecurity in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

Atiku, whose concern was contained in a tweet on his verified twitter handle @Atiku, said:  “I am concerned and saddened by reports of the attack on Kuje Prison by suspected terrorists.

“My concern arises not only from the prospects of the escape of detained terrorists and hardened criminals but also of its implications for the security of lives and property to residents of Abuja and its environs.

“I wish to restate what I said on Monday that our inability to enthrone a regime of law and order in which the arrest and prosecution of criminals will be made a priority as a deterrent to copycats is the reason insecurity continues to fester in our country.”

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