Prime News Ghana

Sierra Leone violence: Sunday attacks were part of coup attempt - Minister

By primenewsghana
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Sierra Leone's government has designated Sunday's disorder, in which armed men attacked institutions in the capital city, as an attempted coup.

The information minister said that gunmen had tried to "subvert and overthrow" the government on Sunday.

The assailants attacked a military barracks and prisons, freeing around 2,000 inmates, the authorities said.

At least 19 people, comprising security forces and a civilian, died in the violence.

"The incident was a failed attempted coup. The intention was to illegally subvert and overthrow a democratically elected government," Information Minister Chernoh Bah said on Tuesday.

"The attempt failed, and plenty of the leaders are either in police custody or on the run. We will try to capture them and bring them to the full force of the laws of Sierra Leone."

Thirteen military officers and one civilian have been arrested over the disorder, Mr Bah said.

Although calm was largely restored to Freetown on Monday, shots were fired on Tuesday in the Murray Town neighbourhood. The police said this was part of an operation to apprehend perpetrators of Sunday's attack. No-one was hurt in this incident and a person of interest has been detained, officers said.

The entire country has been under a number of curfews since Sunday morning, when men carrying heavy weaponry took to the streets of Freetown.

The BBC witnessed some of the soldiers chanting that they planned to "clean Sierra Leone".

The men stormed a military barracks located close to the presidential residence then attempted, unsuccessfully, to take weapons from the armoury.

They also broke into a "major" prisons in the capital, the information minister said.

Videos shared on social media showed several people fleeing from the area of Freetown's Central Pademba Road prison on Sunday.

Twenty-three prisoners have been brought back, a report shared by prison officials with news agency Reuters shows.

Several countries in West and Central Africa are under military rule after a series of recent coups. These include Sierra Leone's neighbour Guinea as well as Mali, Niger and Chad.

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

The result was rejected by the main opposition candidate and questioned by international partners, including the United States and the European Union.

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

West African bloc Ecowas said on Tuesday it was primed to deploy regional support to "strengthen national security" in Sierra Leone.

Similarly, Nigerian national security adviser Malam Nuhu Ribadu warned that "anything that will interfere with democracy, peace, security and stability of Sierra Leone will not be accepted by Ecowas and by Nigeria".