AFP/Katiola, Ivory Coast
Authorities in Ivory Coast speculated Monday that a guard may have allowed nearly 100 inmates to escape a prison in the west African country, the latest in a string of jail breaks.
‘It's incomprehensible,’ Coulibaly Ouamien, deputy mayor of Katiola, where the escape took place, told AFP. ‘The prison wall is six metres (20 feet) tall and there are many doors before the main gate, so it was obviously an inside job.’
‘There was an individual, a prison guard, who opened the prison’.
A prison source confirmed that the prison's main gate was left unlocked.
At least 96 inmates escaped the prison in the central town of Katiola between 0500 and 0600 GMT on Sunday, a security source said.
‘The security apparatus is partially responsible for this massive evasion,’ a judicial source said, adding: ‘The inmates left the prison without much effort’.
Another source said authorities were able to recapture 22 of the inmates, and a search is still underway to find the rest.
The men apparently fled after going through the roof of their cells.
The inmates who escaped were followers of the late leader of a prison mutiny last year, Coulibaly Yacouba, sources told AFP Sunday.
Yacouba, otherwise known as ‘Yacou the Chinese’, was killed in February 2016 during an attempted jail break at Ivory Coast's main detention centre in Abidjan. Ten people died, including a guard, and 21 others were injured.
This is the latest in a string of jail breaks in Ivory Coast, which has suffered intermittent unrest since the start of the year due to tensions within the country's armed forces.
Last month, five prisoners escaped from a jail in the south-central city of Gagnoa. The city said four prison guards and one civilian were arrested on suspicion of aiding the inmates.
In another incident two days later, 20 people escaped from holding cells at the Abidjan courthouse after clashing with police. Seven prison officials were arrested.
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