A feared militia attacked a prison in the troubled east of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday, freeing at least 1,300 inmates, local officials and police said.
Two prisoners were shot dead during the breakout from the Kangbayi prison in Beni at around 4:30 am (0230 GMT), police said on Twitter, blaming the attack on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
Beni’s acting mayor Modeste Muhindo Bwakanamaha also pointed the finger at the ADF, accused of killing more than 1,000 civilians in the Beni region since October 2014.
“Only around 100 detainees did not leave the prison from among the 1,455 who were there,” Bwakanamaha told AFP.
Clashes took place at the #Kangbayi prison in #Beni (North Kivu) this morning around 4:00 am. According to the mayor of the city, several hundred prisoners managed to escape. #DRC pic.twitter.com/9brDZWUVM7
— Baromètre sécuritaire du Kivu (@KivuSecurity) October 20, 2020
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, the jihadist-surveillance group SITE reported, citing IS’ Amaq News Agency, adding that 900 inmates escaped.
Dozens of soldiers and police were locking down the prison and two armored vehicles of the UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO were on hand by noon on Tuesday, an AFP reporter saw.
The ADF has killed 570 civilians since the army launched a crackdown against them in November last year, according to experts.
The militia, which originated in the 1990s as a Ugandan Muslim rebel group, is one of more than 100 armed groups operating in the resource-rich eastern provinces of the vast DR Congo.
The attacks are apparently reprisals for the army operation or designed to warn locals against collaborating with the army.
But since April last year, the IS has claimed responsibility for some of the attacks.
Jailbreaks are frequent from the DRC’s overcrowded prisons, most built before the country won independence from Belgium in 1960.