Sierra Leone under curfew after military armoury attacked

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The Sierra Leone government imposed a national curfew on Sunday after unidentified gunmen reported a security breach at an armory in the capital, Freetown.

Sierra Leone, an English-speaking country in West Africa, is in the midst of a political crisis following presidential and general elections in June this year.

Witnesses told AFP they heard gunshots and explosions in the Wilberforce district, home to the Treasury and some embassies.

Other witnesses said gunfire broke out near a barracks in the Murray Town district, home to the navy, and outside another military base in Freetown.

“The government is under control and on top of the situation,” the information ministry said after earlier reports of attacks on prisons that forced security forces to retreat.

“The prisons are overcrowded like this,” he said, with some prisoners released while others were “abducted.”

A video posted on social media showed several inmates escaping from the central jail.

An AFP reporter said a man in the group filmed on the street had escaped from prison.

According to the Ministry of Information, security forces pushed the attackers to the outskirts of the capital, and clashes continued in Jui area.

Drone video taken by AFP shows empty streets in the capital.

Security forces were heavily deployed to block access to the city center and gunfire broke out in some neighborhoods, an AFP reporter reported.

The situation is unclear as the authorities have not commented on the motive or identity of the attackers.

‘like war’

As President Julius Mada Bio in X, previously wrote on Twitter, the government will “continue to defend the peace and security of Sierra Leone against forces that seek to undermine the stability we hold so dear.”

We remain committed to protecting democracy in Sierra Leone.

The Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS), which has seen a series of coups among its members since 2020, issued a statement saying it has “no patience for unconstitutional change of government”.

Echoing language used by ECOWAS to condemn past coup attempts, it called the plot by certain individuals “to disarm and destroy the peace and constitutional order” “disgusting”.

The US Embassy condemned the attempt to hack the armory on social media and expressed its continued support for what it said was a “peaceful, democratic, healthy and prosperous Sierra Leone”.

The local representative of the European Union expressed his concern and demanded that the constitutional system be respected.

“They were woken up by the sound of heavy machine gun (fire) and bombs coming from the Wilberforce barracks around 4:30am,” witness Susan Kargbo told AFP by telephone.

“I was shocked and… the shooting continued until this morning, it was like a war,” she said.

Strikers ‘returned’

The government said those who tried to break into the armory were rebuffed, but asked the public to stay indoors as security operations continued.

“In order to allow security forces to continue the process of arresting the suspects, Information Minister Chernor Bah, who announced the immediate curfew at the national level, said that the government and the security forces of our region are under arrest.

UK and EU environmental representatives echoed the authorities’ advice to stay at home.

The Civil Aviation Authority has said that Sierra Leone’s airspace is open but has asked airlines to reschedule their flights after the holiday.

In the year President Bio, who was first elected in 2018, was re-elected in June with 56.17 percent of the vote — more than the 55 percent needed to avoid a runoff.

International observers have condemned the inconsistency and lack of transparency in the census, as well as acts of violence and intimidation.

The main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party boycotted all levels of government and debated the results of the June 24 presidential, legislative and local elections.

Following talks mediated by the Commonwealth, the African Union and ECOWAS, the APC and the government signed an agreement in October.

A.P.P. He agreed to end his boycott and start participating in the government to end what he said was politically motivated prison and court charges.

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