At least 600 inmates have escaped in a jailbreak in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, an attack that officials have blamed on Islamic extremist rebels. Over 300 escapees have either been recaptured or turned themselves in at police stations, authorities said.

Nigeria’s Ministry of Interior said explosions and gunfire were heard at about 10 p.m. in the Kuje area when the attackers arrived and forced their way into the prison through a hole created by the blasts.

Permanent secretary of Nigeria’s Ministry of Interior, Shuaib Belgore, said the “very determined rebels attacked the Kuje maximum prison in Abuja on Tuesday night with very high-grade explosives, killing one guard on duty”

The Abuja jailbreak occurred around the same time that gunmen launched a daring attack on an advance security convoy preparing for the visit of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in the northwest Katsina state.

Those attackers “opened fire on the convoy from ambush positions but were repelled by the military,” a presidential spokesman said.

Nigeria’s jihadi rebels and other armed groups have carried out several jailbreaks in the country’s northeast in recent years, but this is the first recorded in the capital city.

At least over 4,300 inmates have escaped from the countrys prisons since 2017, according to Lagos-based online newspaper TheCable.

In 2021 more than 2,500 inmates were freed in three jailbreaks.

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