The former head of Guinea’s 2008 military junta, Moussa Camara, was sprung from prison by heavily armed men in Conakry in the early hours of Saturday.
He was taken along with three other high-ranking officers, Justice Minister, Charles Wright said.
Residents told Reuters military vehicles and special forces were policing the streets of the Guinean capital after shots were heard in the Kaloum administrative district, where Camara and others were held at the Central House prison.
“It was around 0500 (0500 GMT) that heavily armed men burst into the Central House of Conakry. They managed to leave with four defendants in the trial of the events of Sept. 28 including Captain Moussa Dadis Camara,” the minister said on the radio.
“They will be found wherever they are,” he said, declining to give further details of the investigation.
Guinea’s borders have been closed to prevent the escapees fleeing the country, he said.
Camara and others have been on trial since last year, accused of orchestrating a stadium massacre and mass rape by Guinean security forces in which 150 people were killed during a pro-democracy rally on Sept. 28, 2009.
Camara has denied responsibility, blaming the atrocities on errant soldiers.
Residents near Kaloum said shots were first heard around 4 a.m. local time after which security was tightened on the streets and the entrance to Kaloum was blocked.
By late morning, the capital appeared calm with many soldiers still visible in some areas, ordering people to stay at home, Mmah Camara, a resident of the Tombo district, said by phone.
Guinea is governed by military leader, Mamady Doumbouya, who took power in a coup in 2021 – one of eight in West and Central Africa in the last three years. Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Gabon are also run by military officers.