Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio declared a nationwide curfew Sunday after gunmen attacked the military's main and largest barracks in the West African nation's capital, raising fears of a breakdown of order amid a surge of coups in the region.
The unidentified gunmen attacked the military armory within the Wilberforce barracks in the capital, Freetown, early morning, Bio said in a statement posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, adding that they were driven back by security forces and “calm has been restored.”
“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 wrote.
The country's Ministry of Information and Education also said in a statement the government and security forces are “in control” of the situation.
No details have been immediately given about the gunmen or the reason for the attack.
Videos online, that went viral, reportedly showed soldiers patrolling Freetwon's empty streets and captured the loud blasts of gunshots.
West Africa's regional economic bloc of ECOWAS — of which Sioerra Leon is a member — described the incident as a plot “to acquire arms and disturb the peace and constitutional order” in the country. “ECOWAS reiterates its zero tolerance for unconstitutional change of government,” the bloc said in a statement.
Sierra Leon's president was reelected for a second term in June in a disputed vote in which the main opposition party the electoral commission of conspiring with his party to rig the results.
It was the country’s fifth presidential election since the end of a brutal 11-year civil war — more than two decades ago — which left tens of thousands dead and destroyed the country’s economy.
Bio continues to face criticism because of debilitating economic conditions. Nearly 60% of Sierra Leone’s population of more than seven million are facing poverty, with youth unemployment being one of the highest in West Africa.