KATIOLA - Authorities in Ivory Coast speculated on Monday that a guard may have allowed nearly 100 inmates to escape a prison in the central town of Katiola, the latest in a string of jail breaks.
"It's incomprehensible," Coulibaly Ouamien, deputy mayor of Katiola, told AFP.
"The prison wall is six metres high and there are many doors before the main gate, so it was obviously an inside job."
"There was an individual, a prison guard, who opened the prison."
A prison source confirmed that the main gate was left unlocked.
"Ninety-eight inmates" escaped at dawn on Sunday from the prison about 45 kilometres north of Bouake, said the director of penitentiary administration, Joachim Kongoue Koffi, in a statement.
He said 36 escapees had been recaptured and that some officials in charge at the prison had been sacked.
The men fled after going through the roofs of their cells, he added.
A judicial source earlier said "the security apparatus is partially responsible for this massive evasion" and "the inmates left the prison without much effort".
The inmates who escaped were followers of the late leader of a prison mutiny last year, Coulibaly Yacouba, sources told AFP on Sunday.
Yacouba, otherwise known as "Yacou the Chinese", was killed in February 2016 during an attempted jail break at Ivory Coast's main detention centre in Abidjan.
Ten people died, including a guard, and 21 others were injured.
This is the latest in a string of jail breaks in Ivory Coast, which has suffered intermittent unrest since the start of the year due to tensions within the country's armed forces.
Last month, five prisoners escaped from a jail in the south-central city of Gagnoa.
The city said four prison guards and one civilian were arrested on suspicion of aiding the inmates.
In another incident two days later, 20 people escaped from holding cells at the Abidjan courthouse after clashing with police. Seven prison officials were arrested.