Hundreds escape, 11 dead after DRC prison attack

Kangwayi prison in Beni. (@KatotoMedia, Twitter)

Kangwayi prison in Beni. (@KatotoMedia, Twitter)

More than 900 inmates are missing after armed assailants launched a coordinated attack on Kangwayi prison in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The strike stands as the country’s third major jailbreak in the past month.

North Kivu Governor Julien Paluku informed reporters that eleven people – including eight security officers – were killed during a volley of gunfire.

He went on to explain, “at the moment, out of 966 prisoners, there are only 30 left in the prison.”

As of Monday morning, there has been no claim of responsibility for the attack.

The episode follows a pair of prison breaks that took place in Kasangulu and DRC capital Kinshasa, where members of Bundu Dia Kongo – a militant separatist sect – are believed to have spearheaded a successful effort to release several dozen inmates.

However, law enforcement officials have stated that another rebel cell – Uganda’s Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) – may have launched the most recent attack in an attempt to free group members that were being held at the Kangwayi jail in Beni.

Despite several Congolese military campaigns, the ADF has been able to operate in the DRC’s North Kivu province since the late 1990s – where the landscape is ideal for a rural insurgency and civil unrest provides a steady funnel of disillusioned fighters and monetary backing. The United Nations has previously cited the group for severe human rights violations, including an extensive use of child soldiers.

Outbreaks of conflict have particularly strained Congolese police in recent months, following President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down in December at the end of his second term.

According to the World Food Programme, 6-million people currently face acute food security in the country and more than 60 000 have been displaced due to violent disputes between government forces, rebel groups, and the dozens of armed civilian militias that operate in the eastern Congolese provinces bordering Rwanda.

Paluku has placed Beni and an adjacent town, Butembo, under curfew. In a statement to the press, the governor declared, “only the police and soldiers should be out at this time.” 

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