Sierra Leone has imposed a nationwide curfew following attempts by “unidentified individuals” to break into the military armoury on Sunday, a statement by the government said. The statement however assured the citizens that government and security forces were in control.
The statement signed by the Minister of Information and Civic Education, Chernor A. Bah read: In the early hours of Sunday November 56th 2023, some unidentified individuals attempted to break into the military armoury at Wilberforce Barracks. They have been rebuffed.
“The public is assured that the government and our state security forces are in control
“To enable the security to continue the process of apprehending the suspects, a nationwide curfew is declared with immediate effect across the country. We strongly advise citizens to stay indoors.”
The political situation in Sierra Leone has been tense since President Julius Maada Bio was re-elected in June, a result rejected by the main opposition candidate.
Reuters reported that sustained gunfire could still be heard in some neighbourhoods of Freetown as residents hunkered down in their homes around 1200 GMT on Sunday.
Sierra Leone’s interior minister David Taluva told Reuters that the retreating assailants had attacked a police barracks after running out of ammunition, and had seized more arms from police officers.
The streets of the capital were mostly empty near the barracks earlier on Sunday morning, said a Reuters reporter who encountered a group of the renegade soldiers.
“We’ll clean this society. We know what we are up to. We are not after any ordinary civilians who should go about their normal business,” one of the masked men in military fatigues said before driving away.
A senior government official, who requested anonymity, told Reuters that assailants also attacked the central prison in Freetown and some inmates had escaped. The prison, designed to hold 324 inmates, contained over 2,000 in 2019, according to a U.S. State Department report.
It was not immediately clear how many had broken out of the facility, but videos shared on social media showed several people fleeing from the area of the prison, while gun shots could be heard in the background. Reuters has not authenticated the videos.
The Economic Community of West African States on Sunday condemned what it called an attempt by certain individuals to “acquire arms and disturb constitutional order” in Sierra Leone. The U.S. embassy in Freetown said such actions were not justified.
Bio praised the “gallant security forces” who repelled Sunday’s attack and said calm had been restored.
“We shall continue to protect the peace and security of Sierra Leone against the forces that wish to truncate our much-cherished stability,” Bio said in message posted on the president’s X social media account.