FREETOWN – Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, witnessed armed clashes on Sunday, prompting the government to impose an immediate national curfew.
The violence was reportedly targeted at a military armoury in the Wilberforce district, with witnesses describing the sound of gunshots and explosions.
“I was awakened by a loud sound of heavy machine gun (fire) and bombs coming from the Wilberforce barracks around 4:30 am,” said witness Susan Kargbo.
“I was shocked, and the gunshots continued until this morning; it was like a war.”
Video footage circulating on social networks showed groups of men on the streets, described as escaped prisoners.
The situation remains fluid, and authorities have not confirmed whether prison gates were opened.
The government asserted that individuals attempting to break into the armoury at a major army barracks were repelled, but the public was urged to stay at home.
Information minister Chernor Bah stated, “The public is assured that the government and our state security forces are in control.
“To enable the security forces to continue the process of apprehending the suspects, a nationwide curfew is declared with immediate effect across the country.”
Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio assured the public that calm had been restored to the capital.
He announced the curfew and emphasized the government’s commitment to protecting the peace and security of Sierra Leone against any destabilizing forces.
“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,” President Bio shared on social media.
“However, they were repelled by our gallant Security Forces, and calm has been restored.”
The U.S. embassy condemned the attempt to breach the armoury, expressing ongoing support for efforts to maintain peace and democracy in Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone has been grappling with a political crisis following the presidential and general elections in June.
The West African region has witnessed a series of military coups and attempted coups since August 2020, with neighboring countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Guinea experiencing political instability.