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Mogadishu Prison attack: What we know so far

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

MOGADISHU, Somalia - Monday's unprecedented shooting and subsequent deaths of inmates and guards at Mogadishu Central Prison has evoked a sharp debate, with authorities maintaining that the incident was purely an attack waged by Al-Shabaab convicts, who are serving sentences at the facility.

However, another theory has emerged of a possible inside job, which if verified, could lead to a major overhaul in Somalia's prison department. The department is responsible for the correction of convicts, some of them who are serving a death row after being convicted by court-martial.

Gen. Mahad Abdirahman, the Custodial Corps commander, seemed to rhyme with an initial report that was published by the Garowe Online. In his address to the media, the prison boss said chaos erupted after an inmate grabbed a gun from a guard before starting to shoot randomly.

"The inmate grabbed a gun from a guard and killed him on the spot. They went on to kill a second guard and obtained another gun and continued to shoot randomly, killing a total of three guards," he said, adding that: "The site has since been secured after the security forces fired at the rowdy inmates."

The incident took a couple of hours and four inmates were killed during the encounter. Another inmate, officials said, was critically injured during the fatal shootout but has since been taken to hospital for treatment, as the security forces ponder on the next move.

However, the Voice of America preliminary investigations show that the incident may have been pre-planned perhaps with the knowledge of senior security officials working within the Mogadishu Central Prison, a heavily fortified facility within the seaside city.

The inmates, all members of Islamist militant group al-Shabab, VOA reported, had obtained three pistols and six hand grenades smuggled into the prison, a senior security official told VOA. The inmates attacked guards, sparking the confrontation.

And two other inmates suspected of involvement were wounded and apprehended, according to officials. One inmate is believed to have escaped the facility, and is believed to have killed the driver of a rickshaw and another civilian outside the prison, VOA added.

The chaos started in the section where inmates serving a life sentence are held, according to the official. The security official told VOA that it is believed the weapons were hidden in food and other items smuggled into the prison when inmates receive visits twice a week.

An inmate held in a different part of the prison who was interviewed by a local radio said the shooting started during a change of shift by the guards, added the Voice of America, in an allegation that could spark fresh controversy over the safety of Somali prisons.

The central prison is located next to Mogadishu’s seaport and is heavily guarded. Dozens of al-Shabab inmates are held at the facility, including some who are on death row, and a number of them were convicted by a military court over the mass killing of people.

As of Monday evening, the facility had been secured after security forces neutralized the rebellion, which would have been otherwise devastating. However, until now, authorities are yet to confirm claims that one inmate may have succeeded in running away from the facility.


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