Eastern Congo remains deeply unstable more than eight years after the end of a civil war [Reuters]

Eight people have been killed and 44 others injured during an attempted jail break in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo's South Kivu province, police said.

The casualties occurred on Sunday at the Bukavu central prison after a grenade exploded in the hands of an inmate, senior regional police official Gaston Luzembo told the AFP news agency.

"A colonel inmate gave a grenade to a civilian inmate and told him to throw it in front of doors to create panic to facilitate the escape," Gaston Luzembo, a senior regional police official, told AFP.

"Not being a military man, the civilian took the pin out of the grenade but kept it and it exploded in his hands," Luzembo said.

"There were eight dead - four civilians and four military," he said. "There were also 44 injured, including 32 civilians, with the rest [being] military."

Frequent jailbreaks

He said three prisoners managed to escape on Saturday with the "complicity" of the head of the jail. They included the man who was the official representative of the prisoners.

Luzembo said the colonel then tried "to take advantage of this unstable situation", to launch the failed jail break.

A Reuters witness said the early morning blast at the jail was followed by gunfire and some inmates who had suffered
serious injuries were being treated at a local hospital. 

Prison breaks and attempted escapes are frequent in the country. In September, nearly 1,000 inmates escaped from a prison in the eastern Katanga province after a spectacular raid by masked gunmen to spring a militia leader from death row.

Prisons in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which the United Nations ranks as one of the least developed countries in the world, are known for overcrowding, tough conditions and shoddy security.

Eastern Congo remains deeply unstable more than eight years after the end of a civil war, with rebels and members of the armed forces both accused of widespread criminality.

Source: Agencies