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Prison Break Highlights Nigeria’s Security Weakness

Almost 2,000 prisoners have escaped after a jailbreak in south-east Nigeria blamed on armed separatists, in the latest in a string of armed attacks on law enforcement authorities. A prison facility and police command centre in the city of Owerri, Imo state, was targeted early on Monday by gunmen who destroyed part of the prison walls with explosives, freeing 1,844 inmates. One police officer was shot and injured in the attack. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but police said the gunmen were from the Eastern Security Network – a military wing of the dominant pro-Biafra secessionist group in southeast Nigeria, the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob). Since 2015, south-east Nigeria has experienced the most marked resurgence in secessionist sentiment since the 1967-70 Biafra war. Millions of people died during the conflict, many from starvation after a government blockade on the region, in one of the darkest chapters in modern Nigerian history. The bitter legacy of the Biafra war still runs deep in Nigeria, more than 50 years after it ended. The history of the conflict is heavily censored and the atrocities have barely been acknowledged. Economic inequality and deprivation has fuelled secessionist resentment in the south-east of the country.