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Inmates die in prison riot 'massacre'

Opposition demands probe after 27 are killed

Inmates were seen rioting on the roof after stealing weapons (photo by Romesh) Inmates were seen rioting on the roof after stealing weapons (photo by Romesh)
  • ucanews.com reporter, Colombo
  • Sri Lanka
  • November 12, 2012
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A shootout at a prison in Colombo which started on Friday night has left people 27 people dead and 59 injured, in what the opposition is calling a “massacre” by the military.

Violence erupted at Welikada Prison when inmates armed themselves by breaking into the armory ahead of a search for narcotics and communication devices, according to officials.

Dozens of prisoners were later seen holding weapons on the roof as back-up was called in from the Special Taskforce (STF), a division of the military.

After tear gas was used, the STF then opened fire, according to reports.

Sri Lanka's opposition has condemned the incident, calling it illegal.“The international charter on prisons has been violated by allowing the STF to search the prison,” said opposition party Secretary General Tissa Attanayake. “Pay compensation to the families.”

The government appears to have heeded calls for an inquiry, although it remains unclear who would lead it. Minister of Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms Chandrasiri Gajadeera said he has appointed a committee to investigate, without giving further information.

The Army is enforcing "special security arrangements" at the prison while authorities try to regain full control.
Security forces have recovered nearly all of the 82 weapons stolen by prisoners, said Commissioner General of Prisons P.W. Kodippili, who also confirmed that three prisoners remain on the loose.

Sri Lanka has seen a wave of violence in its prisons in recent years.
In January, clashes at Welikada left 28 people injured and similar attackstook place there  in 2010. In a revolt at another facility in June, two inmates died and human rights groups accused guards of beating prisoners to death.
Reports claimed those that died were linked to the Tamil Tigers, the insurgent group defeated by the army in 2009 after years of civil war.

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