Nation/World

Afghan inmates take over prison wing

KABUL, Afghanistan – Hundreds of inmates, including terrorism convicts, clashed with guards in a failed attempt to break out of a high-security prison in Kabul, then took control of parts of the prison, officials said today.

The prisoners forced guards out of a block of Policharki Prison on Saturday night, said Abdul Salaam Bakshi, chief of prisons in Afghanistan. He accused al-Qaida and Taliban inmates of inciting other prisoners.

Mohammed Qasim Hashimzai, deputy justice minister, said some inmates were injured but prisoners refused an offer for them to be treated. No guards were hurt in the clash.

He said some inmates were still trying to escape, and about 100 of them had taken control of a women’s wing of the prison. The prison holds 1,300 inmates.

An Associated Press reporter outside Policharki heard a short burst of gunfire this morning. A few minutes later, an ambulance carrying an unidentified patient drove out of the prison.

Bakshi said police had the prison surrounded and no inmates had escaped.

“All the problem is inside the prison. It’s 1,300 people. We want to peacefully solve this problem,” he said.

A justice ministry delegation visited the prison on the outskirts of the Afghan capital this morning to negotiate with the prisoners.

“They have demands, we are going to listen to what they want,” Hashimzai said.

“If we cannot solve it through negotiations, we have our own options,” he added, but refused to say if that meant using force.

He said the trouble started when hundreds of inmates tried to break out Saturday night from Block 2 of the prison, which houses various criminals and some 350 Taliban inmates.

Bakshi said the inmates had attacked guards and tried to force their way out of their prison block but were stopped. He said the inmates had small knives and clubs fashioned from wrecked furniture. They also set fire to bedding.

Policharki has suffered breakouts and riots before.

In December 2004, four inmates and four guards died during a 10-hour standoff that started when al-Qaida militants used razors to wrest guns from guards and then tried to break out. Afghan troops stormed the prison and fired guns and rocket-propelled grenades to retake control.

Last month, seven mid-ranking Taliban inmates disguised themselves as visitors and escaped.



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