Sierra Leone faces violent attack as armed men target Freetown’s Military Barracks and Correctional Center
On Sunday, November 26, 2023, Sierra Leone faced a violent attack by some unknown armed men who targeted military and other facilities in Freetown. The attack sparked fear and confusion among citizens, who were ordered to stay indoors as a nationwide curfew was imposed.
The attack began in the early hours of the morning, when the assailants broke into the armory of the Wilberforce military barracks, which is close to the presidential lodge. They allegedly stole weapons and ammunition, and then headed to the main correctional center, where they freed thousands of inmates as reported.
The security forces responded to the attack, and a fierce gun battle ensued. Several reports of gunshots were heard in Wilberforce military barracks, Wilkinson Road, PaDemba Road, and Hastings armed police barracks, where some injuries and death were reported.
The BBC reporter Umaru Fofana witnessed some of the events, and reported that some military officers with rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) hijacked an armed police vehicle at Congo-cross, which was a hotspot of the clash. The officers did not reveal their motive, but told the reporter that they were on a mission to “clean this society”. They also said that they were not after any ordinary civilians.
The attack came as a shock to many, as Sierra Leone has been enjoying relative peace and stability since the end of the civil war in 2002. In June this year, President Julius Maada Bio was re-elected for a second term, amid some allegations of election fraud. In August, some people, including some senior soldiers, were arrested and accused of plotting a coup against the president.
In his address to the nation on Sunday evening, President Bio did not call the attack an attempted coup, but said that the situation was under control and most of the attackers had been captured. He vowed to bring them to justice, and thanked the security forces for their bravery and professionalism.
“Most of the leaders have been arrested with operations and investigations still ongoing. All those responsible would be held accountable through due process”. President Julius Maada Bio.
National Address On The Current Security Situation In Sierra Leone: Sunday, November 26th, 2023 pic.twitter.com/wHAMGeWuIy
— President Julius Maada Bio (@PresidentBio) November 26, 2023
The attack in Sierra Leone is the latest in a series of coups and attempted coups in West and Central Africa in recent years. In September, the military in Guinea overthrew President Alpha Conde, who had changed the constitution to extend his rule. The coup leaders have promised to hold elections, but have not given a timeline. Other countries that have experienced coups or coup attempts include Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Niger.