Sierra Leone Under Curfew As ECOWAS, US, UK, EU Condemn Coup Attempt

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Sierra Leone’s government has declared a nationwide curfew after armed men broke into prisons and set inmates free in what has been described as a failed coup attempt.

The US, European Union, UK and regional block ECOWAS have released statements strongly condemning Sunday’s violence.

Detainees from a number of “major” facilities were released on Sunday morning, said the West African nation’s information minister.

Earlier on, the gunmen had attacked a military barracks in capital city, Freetown.

Residents reported hearing gunshots at the barracks, which are located close to the presidential residence.

After the attack, the Ministry of Information declared an immediate curfew. Residents across the country are “strongly” recommended to stay indoors and flights to and from the nation’s only international airport have been cancelled.

The “assailants” have been pushed back to the outskirts of Freetown, Information Minister Chernor Bah said at around 13:30 (local time and GMT).

He wrote on social media platform X: “Most of the city is calm and under control of the state security forces.

“Major detention centres including the Pademba Road Prisons were attacked earlier today and in the interest of protecting civilian lives (including of prisoners), the security forces were forced to make a tactical retreat.”

A military source has told the BBC that some of the gunmen, including the guard of former President Ernest Koroma, have been arrested.

In the morning, the BBC witnessed soldiers in Freetown carrying heavy weaponry in a seized police vehicle and saw others chanting that they planned to “clean Sierra Leone”.

It is unclear exactly how many prisoners were released but videos shared on social media show several people fleeing from the area of Freetown’s Central Pademba Road prison.

One video appeared to show popular rapper Boss LAJ, who was imprisoned last year on robbery charges, running free.

The BBC has not been able to authenticate these videos.

On X, President Julius Maada Bio spoke of a resolution to “protect democracy in Sierra Leone” and urged citizens to stay indoors.

The political situation in Sierra Leone has remained tense since June, when President Bio was re-elected – narrowly missing out on the need to have a run-off.

International observers have condemned inconsistencies and a lack of transparency in the count, as well as acts of violence and intimidation.

In August, a number of soldiers were arrested and accused of plotting a coup against the president.

Eight countries in West and Central Africa are under military rule after a series of coups, including in neighbouring Guinea.

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