In the early hours of Tuesday, armed fighters attacked the Kangbayi central prison in Beni, eastern Democratic of Congo(DRC). The armed men in their coordinated attack managed to free at least 900 inmates from the prison.
Inmates Freed using Welding Equipment
The attackers came in large numbers and equipped with welding equipment. Thay cut the bolt on the prison’s front door as well as the metal grate behind it. Using the electrical equipment, they broke the doors of the prison cells and free inmates.
Out of 1000 inmates, only 100 prisoners remained in prison after the attack. However, two prisoners got shot in the raid, which started at around 4:30 a.m. local time. During their assault, a military camp providing security to the prison also got struck.
Most of the escaped prisoners were a variety of fighters, including members of local defense forces and convicted militia members. Twenty of the escaped prisoners, however, had already returned to the prison.
Poorly Secured and Overcrowded Prisons
Congo has very poorly secured and overcrowded prisons, and due to this, escapes are common. Beni’s town mayor confirmed that there were rumors of a break-out in the jail in the days before the attack. The rumors of the preparations were not taken seriously, however. The incident, similar to another that occurred in 2017, where inmates escaped with armed men’s help, happened again. Mai Mai (local rebels) carried out the attack in 2017.
Inmates Freed by The Allied Democratic Forces
Modeste Bakwanamaha Beni’s mayor said they believed that the ADF operating in the area were to blame for the attack. The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) is a Ugandan armed group active in the DRC. The group, which some say is an Islamist militant group, has been active in DRC since the 1990s. However, no proof has ever been discovered that links the Islamic State to the ADF to date.
Around six years ago, the ADF group started killing people and attacking villages using guns and machetes. Furthermore, over the years, they have also abducted hundreds of people. A report prepared by the UN revealed that the ADF kidnapped up to 500 civilians in the last year and a half. Additionally, the report said that the group killed more than 1,000 civilians since the start of 2019 despite repeated military campaigns aimed at destroying it.
The Islamic State has claimed several attacks attributed to the ADF over the years. Due to this, numerous individuals have always thought that there is a connection between the two groups. No group, however, has ever confirmed to have a relationship with the other.
Large-scale Counter-rebel Campaign.
A year ago, DRC’s army launched a large-scale counter-rebel campaign against the ADF. However, the militant group abandoned its bases and split into smaller groups in response to the move. The splitting up resulted in the group forming smaller, more mobile groups that went on to retaliate against civilians.
Despite Beni’s Mayor blaming the ADF group for the attack, no group claimed responsibility for the prison attack. The mayor asked residents to denounce escapees who may be hiding in the city.