Nigerian Protesters Are 'Liberating' Prisons As Police Respond With Live Fire

Unrest and violence are continuing to escalate in the Nigerian capital of Lagos after at least two weeks of angry street demonstrations calling for the abolishment of the elite police Special Anti-Robbery Squad, known as SARS, over allegations they torture and abuse citizens - resulting in live fire being used against protesters this week.

It appears there's an attempt at a mass prison break underway Thursday, as detailed by AFP

Shots rang out and a prison was set ablaze as fresh unrest rocked Nigeria's biggest city Lagos on Thursday after the shooting of protesters that drew international outrage. 

Gunfire was heard and smoke could be seen billowing from the detention facility in the upscale Ikoyi neighbourhood in central Lagos, an AFP journalist said.

Police said assailants had attacked the site on the second day of violence in the city of 20 million people after a brutal crackdown by security forces on demonstrations.

Anti-police demonstrations have raged since Oct.8 across various cities, resulting in the deaths of 56 people and injuring of hundreds more. 

Beginning Tuesday there were international reports that Nigerian soldiers, who have since imposed a blanket security curfew over Lagos and other places, have begun firing on protesters. Amnesty International said 12 protesters were gunned down early this week, allegedly by state security forces.

In an incident Wednesday at least two people were shot amid a crowd of some 1,000 demonstrators, one of which reportedly died at the scene. But the military has meanwhile blamed "armed gangs" for the violence while calling the allegations "fake news".

AP image showing the new prison fire in Lagos on Thursday. Details remain murky.

Currently, AP reports that "Elsewhere in the sprawling city of 14 million, the streets were empty and shops were shuttered, as residents largely obeyed a government curfew meant to curb the chaos."

For the first time the US State Department weighed firmly against the government, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying, "We welcome an immediate investigation into any use of excessive force by members of the security forces," and further that "Those involved should be held to account in accordance with Nigerian law."

The mass protests and clashes with police have been growing more intense after a little over two weeks ago a video surfaced and went viral purporting to show officers with the elite police task force beating and torturing a man

The video appears to show the notorious tactics of the hated SARS unit, which has long been despised especially by Nigeria's youth. Mostly young people have been seen in the streets demanding the permanent disbanding of the SARS unit, something the government has vowed to do. Lagos is also promising further reform efforts among police and security branches.

Just days ago there was a large prison break at Benin Correctional Center in Edo, in southern Nigeria, after crowds stormed the complex. Some 200 inmates are believed to have escaped while one person died during the Monday riot.

Video of the prior prison break earlier this week in southern Nigeria:

"Free the prisoners!" a man can be heard shouting in English in one video of the Benin prison attack.

There's widespread anger at 'unjust' and arbitrary imprisonments on the part of Nigerian police, thus the rioting crowds see themselves as "liberating" state prisons in a trend that looks to continue.