Inmates wounded in Afghan prison riot

Seventeen inmates wounded during a rebellion at Kabul’s main jail in Afghanistan were taken to hospital along with the bodies of four who were killed, after the prisoners agreed to halt two days of rioting.

Authorities said they had restored supplies of water, electricity and food to the prisoners after progress was made in negotiations. A tanker truck carrying water and another vehicle loaded with potatoes and rice was seen driving into the compound today.

The supplies were withheld late on Sunday from the roughly 2,000 prisoners in the facility, including women and their children, even though the violence was blamed only on some 350 Taliban and al-Qaida detainees.

The Afghan army commander in charge of security at Policharki jail on the outskirts of the capital, Kabul, said there had been no violence since late yesterday.

“Everything is completely calm,” said Gen. Zamarai, who uses only one name. “I was even talking and joking with some of the prisoners this morning.”

The prisoners still control the main wings of the sprawling jail, but they have stopped trying to break out from their cell blocks into the surrounding grounds where police and soldiers have taken up positions, he said.

Zamarai said 17 of the wounded were taken from the facility to a hospital in the centre of Kabul for treatment. Officials have said a total of 38 people have been hurt. Among the four dead were a Pakistani and a Tajik. Their identities were not known.

Outside the jail, dozens of relatives of inmates pleaded with guards for news. Some women beat the ground as their children wailed, fearful that their loved ones may be among those killed.

“Oh, my son, are you alive?” Zubaida Gul, 60, cried at the feet of some guards. “Your family needs you.”

Another woman said she was afraid for her brother, Abdul Baseer, a convicted murderer, because conditions in the prison were terrible.

“This is not a jail, it’s a cemetery,” said the woman, who gave her name only as Mariam. “No one has any rights once they’ve gone inside. I doubt I will ever see him again.”

She said the international community had an obligation to improve conditions at the prison.

Policharki was built in the 1970s and has earned notoriety for its harsh and crowded conditions.

Some of its blocks are being renovated ahead of the expected arrival of some 110 Afghan terror suspects later this year from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but there has been little work on the rest of the facility.

Sibghatullah Mujaddedi, the chief government negotiator, was expected to return to the prison later today to resume talks with the prisoners, who have made a range of demands, including a general amnesty for an unspecified number of inmates.

Violence erupted on Saturday after prisoners refused to put on new uniforms, delivered in response to a breakout last month by seven Taliban prisoners who had disguised themselves as visitors.

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