A shootout between rioting prisoners and security forces at a prison in Colombo, Sri Lanka, killed at least 27 inmates, while police said yesterday that they arrested five prisoners who had managed to escape and were searching for others.
Another 42 people were wounded in the shootout on Friday between inmates and army and police commandos that broke out after the rioting prisoners briefly took control of at least part of the Welikada prison in Colombo.
The situation at the prison had returned to normalcy by yesterday morning.
“The prison is now totally under our control,” said prison chief Kodippili, whose facility was the site of another riot earlier this year.
Colombo National Hospital director Anil Jasinghe said the bodies of 16 inmates were at his hospital.
Kodippili said that security forces had found the bodies of 11 other inmates inside the prison premises and that the total number of deaths stood at 27.
Twenty-three inmates who were injured in the clash were receiving treatment at the hospital, Jasinghe said.
Thirteen police officers, four soldiers, a prison guard and a passer-by also were being treated at the hospital for their injuries.
Police spokesman Prishantha Jayakody said five prisoners who escaped from the prison had been arrested.
Kodippili declined to say how many inmates may have escaped, but said search operations were under way to find others who may have fled.
Jayakody said the fighting began when police commandos went to the prison to conduct a search and were attacked by inmates hurling stones. He declined to provide more information. Officials often conduct raids for narcotics and communication devices.
Prisoners were seen waving rifles atop the prison’s roof on Friday night.
Other prisoners piled into a three-wheeled vehicle and began driving toward a main city road before security forces outside the prison opened fire. The vehicle stopped and three unmoving bodies could be seen.
Dozens of security officers then entered the prison and volleys of gunfire rang out.
Prisoners could be heard screaming: “Stop shooting.”
Army troops were called in later to help control the situation.
The inmates had broken into the prison’s two armories during the riot and taken weapons stored there. The inmates opened fire at police commandos, who shot back, Kodippili said.
He said that security forces had so far recovered 76 weapons taken by the prisoners and that six more weapons were still missing.
A clash between inmates and guards at the same prison last January wounded 28 people.
Those prisoners were protesting the authorities’ move to curtail drug smuggling into the facility.