An escape has left 22 inmates unaccounted for and three guards dead at a prison in Niger's capital, Naimey. Particularly worrisome is that some of the escaped convicts were Islamist militants.
The escape comes just a week after al Qaeda-linked groups raided a uranium mine and army barracks in Niger. As GlobalPost reported, the twin attacks, both suicide bombs, were unprecedented in Niger, signaling a troubling spread of Al Qaeda-backed terrorism in Africa.
The convicts who escaped in Sunday's prison break include Alassane Ould Mohamed, who was serving a 20-year sentence for the murder of four Saudi Arabians and an American, the Niger government announced.
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There are conflicting reports over whether poor security at the prison or just bad luck is to blame. Some officials have tried to blame the break on outside forces, telling BBC News that it started when a prisoner grabbed a gun from a guard. It was then that groups stationed outside the prison also opened fire, the officials claim.
However, Justice Minister Amadou suspects that it was caused by weapons inside the jail, already somehow obtained by the prisoners.
"It has emerged from initial investigations at the site that the aggressors obviously benefited from outside complicity regarding the weapon introduced into the prison," he told the BBC.