Twenty killed in Sierra Leone attack on military barracks, army says

President says most of the leaders arrested after attack on military barracks and prisons in the West African nation.

Residents of Freetown, Sierra Leone, stay off the streets during an assault by what the army called ‘renegade soldiers’ on military barracks and prisons on November 26, 2023 [TJ Bade/AP Photo]Published On 27 Nov 202327 Nov 2023

At least 20 people have been killed, including 13 soldiers, and several wounded in a series of attacks over the weekend that targeted military barracks and prisons in Sierra Leone, according to the army.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, an army spokesperson said attacks across the capital, Freetown, on Sunday were carried out by “renegade soldiers” but had been repelled.

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“We have launched a manhunt for all those who were involved in the violent attack, amongst them current and retired serving soldiers,” Colonel Issa Bangura said.

Bangura said the 20 dead included 13 soldiers, three assailants, a police officer, a civilian and someone working in private security. Eight people were wounded and three arrested, he said.

The Reuters news agency, citing a situation report, said about 1,890 people held at the Pademba Road central prison escaped the facility after it was attacked. Police urged those who had escaped to return to the prison.

Reuters said a correspondent saw cell doors forced open or removed entirely during a visit to the facility on Monday, and ​​Colonel Shek Sulaiman Massaquoi, the acting director general of the Sierra Leone Correctional Service, said attackers had rammed through the front gate of the prison in a vehicle after a failed effort to break through with a rocket launcher.

In remarks on Sunday, President Julius Maada Bio said most of the leaders behind the attacks had been arrested and efforts were under way to capture the rest.

Seeking to reassure residents, Information Minister Chernor Bah told the public in a statement on Sunday: “The government and its state security forces are in control.”

Few details have emerged regarding the identity and motives of the attackers. During the assault, some told local media they were fighting to “clean up the system”.

“Certain members of the military are not loyal towards the government or the president despite taking the oath,” Bangura said.

“We want to restore law and order as quickly as possible.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies