Sun, Jul 27, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Three Pakistani judges killed in prison gunbattle

DPA , ISLAMABAD

All five hostage-takers and three judges were killed in a gunbattle after police failed to negotiate the release of 11 hostages held by hardened criminals of a prison in the Pakistani city of Sialkot on Friday, police said.

"Five culprits have been gunned down and two judges killed on the spot while another died of his injuries in hospital," a police official Murtaza said.

Ten judges and a prison official had been taken hostage by hardened criminals, while inspecting a prison Friday morning.

Judge Mohammad Yousuf Ojhla, who escaped along with two other members of the inspection team, said earlier that five hostage-takers were holding eight judges, two magistrates and the assistant superintendent of the jail.

The team of officials was on a weekly tour to examine prison conditions when they were ambushed by the inmates of one cell.

The armed hostage-takers were demanding five AK-47 assault rifles and a 14-seater getaway van in return for freeing their victims. There are 2,300 prisoners in the jail.

Earlier, police tried to negotiate release of the hostages in an attempt to avoid casualties.

"We are trying to find a way out through negotiations as any direct operation will put at risk the lives of the judges. These criminals have nothing to lose," he said.

Police had sealed off all the exists from the building.

The gunbattle followed after the criminals started to fire indiscriminately when their demands were not met.

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