State of Emergency: 13 Military Officers Detained After Foiled Sierra Leone coup attempt
Sierra Leone was plunged into turmoil following an unsuccessful coup endeavour targeting key military establishments and detention facilities, resulting in the apprehension of 13 military officers, as confirmed by the government spokesperson in a press briefing on Tuesday.
Information Minister Chernor Bah unveiled the sinister intentions of the assailants, stating their aim was to
“subvert the elected government of Sierra Leone.”
The meticulously coordinated attacks unfolded in the early hours of Sunday within Freetown, the usually serene capital, taking both security forces and residents by surprise.
“Thirteen military officers are currently in custody, and one other civilian… in this incident, we are now calling a failed coup.”
This unsettling Sierra Leone coup attempt transpired mere months after President Julius Maada Bio clinched a contentious re-election for a second term in June.
The attempted coup compounds the escalating political tensions in West and Central Africa, amplifying concerns within a region already grappling with military upheavals, including coups in Niger and Gabon in the same year.
The chaos commenced with intense gunfire echoing across Freetown as the assailants, numbering in dozens, infiltrated the primary armoury situated near the heavily fortified presidential complex within the largest military barracks of the country.
Moreover, two penitentiaries, notably the principal facility housing over 2,000 inmates, fell victim to the assailants’ coordinated assault.
Colonel Sulaiman Massaquoi, the interim head of the Sierra Leone Correctional Service, confirmed the escape of a majority of detainees.
Apart from the detained military personnel, authorities apprehended a civilian allegedly linked to the attack.
A significant number of the liberated detainees voluntarily returned to the correctional facilities, while law enforcement launched a manhunt for the escaped suspects.
During the arrest of a person of interest on Tuesday, security forces encountered gunfire.
Lt. Gen. Peter Lavahun, the Chief of Defence Staff, acknowledged the absence of closed-circuit television (CCTV) within the armoury but confirmed ongoing efforts to evaluate the extent of the confiscated weaponry.
Lavahun remarked, “We managed to retrieve two vehicles containing arms and ammunition that were pilfered.”
The incident prompted a citywide lockdown in Freetown, compelling numerous residents to remain indoors. The nation had recently transitioned from a 24-hour curfew to a nocturnal lockdown.
Sierra Leone had been grappling with heightened political tensions following Bio’s contested re-election, marred by accusations of electoral malpractice.
In the wake of his triumph, authorities detained numerous individuals, including senior military officials, on charges of orchestrating protests to disrupt public order.
The broader West African region remains fragile, with neighbouring Guinea wrestling with political upheaval following a coup in 2021.
Sierra Leone itself continues to convalesce from an 11-year civil war that concluded over two decades ago. With a population of 8 million, the country stands among the world’s most impoverished nations.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), of which Sierra Leone is a constituent, unequivocally denounced the attacks, dispatching a delegation to convey solidarity and support to the nation’s president.
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