War in Prison
Nov 10, 2012

Thirteen persons were confirmed dead and 40 others, including the commandant of the STF DIG C. Ranawana and ten other STF personnel were injured during a major shootout outside the Welikada remand prison yesterday.

However, it is believed that there could be an increase in the number killed during the shootout as a number of bodies were seen lying in the environs of the prison complex.

The shootout started shortly after inmates of the Welikada prison broke out from the main gate of the prison and attempted to flee in a trishaw parked near the entrance at around 6.15 pm, while opening fire at STF personnel at the scene.

The STF returned fire killing a number of the fleeing prisoners.. Their bodies were later recovered from the Baseline Road at around 8.00 pm. One of the escapees sustained serious injuries.

Director of the National Hospital Dr. Anil Jasinghe said 13 persons were found dead on admission to hospital. “Of the 40 persons admitted, six were in a critical condition. The Commandant of the STF DIG C. Ranawana who sustained gunshot injuries in the abdomen is undergoing surgery” he said.

The prison uprising began last afternoon shortly after around 300 STF personnel together with the prison officials carried out a raid after authorities received information of a major drug racket and other illegal activities being conducted within the prison premises.

The raid which commenced at around 2.00pm lasted for close to three hours, with the authorities recovering mobile phones, drugs and other material.

According to reports the rioting commenced when STF personnel commenced searching death row inmates after handcuffing them. prisoners began had protesting the move which led to a tense situation. Inmates had then begun pelting stones and other objects at the forces, who gradually withdrew from the complex.

In an effort to quell the unruly inmates the STF fired tear gas and withdrew completely through the main gates of the prison. However the effort failed and prisoners climbed onto the roof of the prison ward and continued pelting stones, clubs and other objects at the STF who were on and the road.

At Around 5.45 pm all roads leading to the prison were closed off causing a major traffic block in the area. According to reports it was at this time inmates broke into the armoury situated within the prison premises and taken assault rifles and other weapons which were stored. Thus armed they got onto the roof of the prison and were seen to threaten onlookers, prison guards and STF personnel.

At this point police personnel began to evacuate all residents of the area and cordoned off the entire area.

At around 6.15 pm five armed inmates broke out of the main gate, got into a trishaw and had attempted to escape while unleashing a hail of gunfire at the STF personnel. The STF returned fire at the escaping prisoners killing four of them

From this point on (between 6.15 and 6.40 pm there was heavy fire between inmates within the premises and the STF.

At around 6.25pm power to the area was cut making indentification between friend and foe impossible. Media personnel were ordered not to stay back and not to move around as they could be in harms way.

All the while armed prisoners perched atop prison buildings kept constantly firing at the STF personnel.

After the initial round of heavy fire, random shooting continued even up to the time of going to press.

Each time authorities attempted to enter via the main gate, shots were fired, compelling them to withdraw.

Subsequently additional security forces from the military and the STF were called in. An armoured car was called in and the area soon took on the look of a mini war zone.

At around 8.30 pm the military planned to break into the jail, ambulances were called in and were parked outside the prison complex to ferry injured to hospital. However before the plan could be put into operation heavy rains hit the area and the operation was temporarily halted.

With the military completely surrounding the prison complex more than fifteen weapons which were believed to be used by the inmates were also recovered in the area.

Several prisoners who had escaped during the riot were captured in the vicinity of the prison.

At the time of going to press the STF was yet to enter the prison and the situation within the prison remained unclear.

Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka

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