Coup attempt foiled in Sierra Leone
A group of soldiers and police officers launched a series of attacks on military facilities and prisons in Sierra Leone over the weekend in an attempt to overthrow the civilian government, authorities in the West African country claim.
Sierra Leonean Information Minister Chernor Bah told reporters on Tuesday that 13 military officials and one civilian had been detained in connection with the incident.
“The incident was a failed attempted coup. The intention was to illegally subvert and overthrow a democratically elected government,” Bah said.
On Sunday, the West African country imposed a nationwide curfew following clashes between security forces and armed men who attacked the Wilberforce Barracks in the capital, Freetown. According to the government, the armed group also broke into Freetown Central Prison and released several inmates.
At least 21 people were killed in the gunfire, including 14 soldiers and three “assailants,” Bah said on Tuesday. According to the police, among the dead is Idrissa Hamid Kamara, popularly known as Leatherboot, a “strongman” of the opposition All People’s Congress party and renowned as a member of the security team of Sierra Leone’s previous president, Ernest Bai Koroma.
Authorities have also reported that nearly 2,000 prisoners escaped during the disturbances, with only a few voluntarily returning.
Sierra Leonean police have released photographs of 34 people wanted for alleged involvement in the unrest. The list includes 32 men and two women who are either serving or retired soldiers, police officers, and some civilians. According to the Sierra Leone Telegraph, almost all of the declared fugitives are linked to the main opposition APC party in some way.
Tensions in Sierra Leone have been rising since President Bio’s re-election in June, which drew criticism from the opposition and international observers over concerns about transparency.
Police arrested senior army officers in August on suspicion of plotting an attack on state institutions.
The coup attempt in Freetown comes at a time when the West African region has seen successful overthrows of democratically elected governments, the most recent of which occurred in Niger.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has condemned the event, calling it a scheme by certain individuals to obtain arms and disrupt the member state’s peace and constitutional order.
The 15-state regional bloc said on Monday that it was ready to assist Sierra Leone, including by strengthening national security and deploying regional elements if necessary.