Six inmates killed as prison officers open fire to quell riot in Sri Lanka

Six inmates killed as prison officers open fire to quell riot in Sri Lanka
A family member of an inmate cries demanding the authorities reveal the condition of her relative (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)

Six inmates have been killed and 35 others injured when guards opened fire to control a riot at a prison on the outskirts of Sri Lanka’s capital, officials said.

Pandemic-related unrest has been growing in Sri Lanka’s overcrowded prisons and inmates have staged protests in recent weeks at several jails as the number of coronavirus cases surges in the facilities.

Police spokesman Ajith Rohana said inmates created “unrest” at Mahara prison, about 10 miles north of Colombo, on Sunday, and officials attempted to control the situation.

He said: “The unrest situation turned into a prison riot.”

A family member of an inmate pleads at the feet of a policeman as she seeks information on the condition of her relative outside the Mahara prison complex (Eranga Jayawardena/AP)

Prisoners tried to take control of the prison and hundreds attempted to escape, and “reportedly destroyed most of the property including offices inside the prison,” Mr Rohana said.

Two prison officers were critically injured in the riot, he added.

Hundreds of additional police were deployed to help the guards and strengthen security around the prison.

Sri Lankan prisons are highly congested with more than 26,000 inmates crowded into facilities with a capacity of 10,000.

Senaka Perera, a lawyer with the Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners, said the inmates had been frustrated because their pleas for coronavirus testing and the separation of infected prisoners had been ignored by officials for more than a month.

Sri Lanka has experienced an increase in the disease since last month when two clusters – one centred at a garment factory and other at a fish market – emerged in Colombo and its suburbs.

Confirmed cases from the two clusters have reached 19,449, while Sri Lanka has reported a total number of 22,988 coronavirus cases, including 109 fatalities.

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