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Sierra Leone imposes nationwide curfew after attack on army barracks

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Sierra Leone imposes nationwide curfew after attack on army barracks

A military armoury in Sierra Leone’s capital came under attack on Sunday, the government announced, as it imposed an immediate nationwide curfew.

The government said those attempting to break into the armoury at an army barracks in Freetown had been repelled, but the public were asked to stay at home.

Witnesses told Agence France-Presse they heard gunshots and explosions in the city’s Wilberforce district, where the armoury is located along with a number of embassies.

Other witnesses said they heard exchanges of fire near a barracks in Murray Town district, home to the navy, and outside another military site in Freetown.

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Automatic weapons fire and explosions could be heard on soundtracks posted on social networks.

The streets of the capital were empty, witnesses said.

“The public is assured that the government and our state security forces are in control,” the information minister, Chernor Bah, wrote in a public notice.

“To enable the security forces to continue the process of apprehending the suspects, a nationwide curfew is declared with immediate effect across the country,” the minister said. No details were given on the alleged perpetrators of the attack or their motives.

Sierra Leone, an English-speaking country in west Africa, has been going through a political crisis following presidential and general elections in June this year.

There have been a series of military coups and attempted coups in west Africa since August 2020.

Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Guinea, which shares a border with Sierra Leone, have all fallen under military control.

The president of Sierra Leone, Julius Maada Bio, also offered assurances that calm had been returned to the capital, urging people to stay indoors.

“In the early hours of this morning, there was a breach of security at the military barracks at Wilberforce in Freetown, as some unidentified individuals attacked the military armoury,” he posted on X.

“Unidentified individuals attacked the military armoury. However, they were repelled by our gallant security forces and calm has been restored,” he said. “As the combined team of our security forces continue to root out the remnant of the fleeing renegades, a nationwide curfew has been declared and citizens are encouraged to stay indoors.”

He added that the government would “continue to protect the peace and security of Sierra Leone against the forces that wish to truncate our much-cherished stability” and said the government was “resolute in our determination to protect democracy in Sierra Leone”.

Bio, who was first elected in 2018, was re-elected in June with 56.17% of the vote – just over the 55% needed to avoid a runoff.

International observers condemned inconsistencies and a lack of transparency in the count, as well as acts of violence and intimidation.

The main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party disputed the results of the presidential, legislative and local elections on 24 June and has boycotted all levels of government.

The APC and the government signed an agreement in October following talks mediated by the Commonwealth, the African Union and the west African bloc ECOWAS.

The APC agreed to end its boycott and to begin participating in government in exchange for an end to detentions and court cases it said were politically motivated.

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