By Enyichukwu Enemanna
Sierra Leone’s President, Julius Maada Bio has announced the arrest of masterminds of the attacks on the nation’s main military barracks and prisons on Sunday, attacks seen as an attempted coup.
The situation led to the imposition of nationwide curfew, but the presidency says normalcy has returned across the country and the curfew lifted.
The attacks early Sunday morning surprised residents and security forces in the West African nation and raised fears of a possible coup in a troubled region.
But “most of the leaders” of the attacks now have been arrested and “calm has been restored,” Bio said in a Sunday night address.
Residents in the capital city of Freetown were awoken by sounds of heavy gunfire as gunmen tried to break into the key armory in the country’s largest military barracks, located near the presidential villa.
The attackers engaged in sustained gunfire with security forces and targeted major detention centers – including the central prison holding more than 2,000 inmates and freed or abducted an unconfirmed number of people, authorities said.
Videos on social media appeared to show dozens of inmates jumping into the streets to hurriedly escape at the same time that security forces were engaged in a shootout with the attackers on the outskirts of the city.
The attacks were “an attempt to undermine the peace and stability we have worked so hard to achieve,” said Bio, whose reelection in a disputed vote in June has raised political tensions in the country still healing from a 11-year civil war that ended more than two decades ago.
“Security operations and investigations are ongoing (and) we will ensure that those responsible are held accountable through due process,” Bio said.