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Officials in Ivory Coast blame ‘inside job’ for mass prison escape

Photo shows Ivorian police officers and soldiers leaving a prison in Abidjan

WEST AFRICA––– Officials in the West Africa nation of the Ivory Coast reasoned on Monday that a prison guard may have permitted an estimated 110 inmates to flee a prison in the west African nation that has been undergoing fierce attacks from northern Mali-based extremist.

The recent jail break is the latest in a string of prison escape.

“It’s incomprehensible,” Coulibaly Ouamien, deputy mayor of Katiola, where the escape took place, recounted to media group. “The prison wall is six meters (20 feet) tall and there are many doors before the main gate, so it was obviously an inside job.”

“There was an individual, a prison guard, who opened the prison”.

Authorities say early probe revealed that that the prison’s main gate was left unlocked allegedly by one of the prison guards.

Globe Afrique has learned that at least 96 inmates (though other sources say the number is higher than 100) escaped the prison in the central town of Katiola between 0500 and 0600 GMT on Sunday, local authorities said.

“The security apparatus is partially responsible for this massive evasion,” a judicial source said, adding: “The inmates left the prison without much effort”.

Another reliable government source said the Ivorian authorities were able to recapture 22 of the inmates, and a search is still underway to find the rest.

The inmates seemingly fled after going through the roof of their jail cells one after the other.

Authorities say the inmates who flee the prison were followers of the late leader of a prison mutiny last year, self-described Islamist extremist Coulibaly Yacouba.

According to authorities, Yacouba, best known as “Yacou the Chinese”, was killed in February 2016 after an attempted jail break at Ivory Coast’s main detention center in the commercial capital Abidjan.

This week’s prison escape is the latest in a string of jail breaks in Ivory Coast, which has suffered sporadic turbulence since the beginning of the year due to strains within the country’s military and national forces.

The frequent incidences of jail breaks in the West African nation creates a reason for concern considering the presence of Islamic extremists in northern Mali who are bent on terrorizing the West African sub region.

Sometimes ago, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for an attack on three hotels in Grand-Bassam, a beach town in Ivory Coast that’s popular with locals and foreigners.

Resident Josiane Sekongo said people ran from the beach in Grand-Bassam when the shots began.

Ivory Coast’s president said there were 16 dead victims: 14 civilians and two soldiers. Their identities were not immediately clear.

The country’s interior minister said six attackers were killed.

The U.S. Embassy in Abidjan said it had monitored the situation, adding there was no evidence that U.S. citizens were targeted or harmed.

Abidjan is about 25 miles from Grand-Bassam.

Therefore, these jail breaks are very concerning.

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Dave Okonjie

Dave Okonjie is a public affairs analyst, researcher and senior issues correspondent.

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