Nigeria: Prison where 750 escaped is site of riot

The rioting inmates, part of the group that had escaped earlier this month, accused the government of failing to grant amnesty


By Shehu Saulawa
The Associated Press

BAUCHI, Nigeria — Rioting inmates burned part of a north Nigeria prison Thursday, accusing the government of reneging on a promised amnesty. It was the same prison where some 750 inmates earlier had escaped.

The Bauchi federal prison smoldered into the night after more than 280 returned inmates accused Bauchi state Gov. Isa Yuguda of ignoring his promise to forgive them for their past crimes.

Yuguda had promised 16 inmates a reprieve after they returned following a Sept. 7 prison break engineered by a radical Muslim sect that wants strict Islamic law enforced across Africa's most populous nation.

It wasn't immediately clear Thursday night whether anyone was injured or escaped during the attack on the federal prison. Black smoke could be seen rising from the blocks devoted to classrooms at the prison.

A state government spokesman promised to release a statement later regarding the rioting.

"It was a protest by some of the prisoners who heard that the governor had granted amnesty to a few of them based on the recommendation of the committee on the prerogative of mercy in accordance with the provision of the constitution of the country," said Abdulmuminu Mohammed Kundak, a special adviser to the state governor. "They should know that it is not every prisoner that will be released at the same time."

Members of Boko Haram _ which means "Western education is sacrilege" in the local Hausa language _ attacked the prison on Sept. 7 and went cell by cell to release its incarcerated members.

Those held at the prison were accused of taking part in a riot and attacks on police stations and private homes in July 2009 that triggered a violent police and military crackdown during which more than 700 people died.

More than 120 followers arrested in the wake of the attacks last year were being held at the Bauchi prison pending trial. Five people _ a soldier, a police officer, two prison guards and a civilian _ died in the September attack.

Boko Haram has campaigned for the implementation of strict Shariah law. Nigeria, a nation of 150 million people, is divided between the Christian-dominated south and the Muslim-held north. A dozen states across Nigeria's north already have Shariah law in place, though the area remains under the control of secular state governments.

In recent months, rumors about Boko Haram rearming have spread throughout northern Nigeria. A video recording released in late June showed a Boko Haram leader calling for new violence as the one-year anniversary of their attack neared. Meanwhile, police believe motorcycle-riding members of the sect are killing policemen in the region.
 

 

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