Indonesian police yesterday expanded their search for 131 inmates including four militants who escaped from an overcrowded jail during a riot that left five dead, a police spokesman said.
Inmates began rampaging through the jail in Medan city on Sumatra island on Thursday, setting fires and hurling bottles at guards in anger over power cuts and water shortages at the prison.
The Tanjung Gusta jail was engulfed in towering flames, killing three inmates and two prison staff who were trapped in their office.
“We stepped up efforts by instructing all police forces across Sumatra island to carry out a massive hunt operation,” said Heru Prakoso, spokesman for the North Sumatra police.
Security forces managed to regain control of the prison on Friday afternoon and had recaptured 81 of the 212 inmates who escaped, he said.
“Security at all entry points bordering North Sumatra province has been intensified,” he said, adding that the elite Detachment 88 counter-terrorism squad was also involved in the operation.
Four escaped terror convicts who were still on the loose had been involved in militant training for Mumbai-style attacks on high-profile Indonesians, police said.
About 1,000 police and soldiers were deployed to guard the facility.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono yesterday promised to ease overcrowding in prisons.
“We have allocated one trillion rupiah [US$100 million] to improve capacity of overcrowded prisons, to avoid [this] from recurring,” he told reporters.
“Prisoners have fundamental rights that we must fulfill, especially in this Ramadan month, when many prisoners are fasting,” he said, criticizing the blackout and water shortage at the jail.