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'Gunfire' at Turkish quake-damaged prison
Parts of building on fire and reports of violence inside prison from which several inmates escaped after Sunday's quake.
Last Modified: 25 Oct 2011 20:11

Violence has been reported at a jail in the earthquake-hit city of Van in Turkey, after the walls of the jail were damaged in Sunday's disaster.

Parts of the jail were on fire on Tuesday evening, and witnesses reported hearing gunfire emanating from within it.

"I'm standing outside the main gates of the jail, and a potentially very serious situation is developing here. As we drove towards the jail it was clear that it was still on fire. We could see a prison guard with a riot shield moving down from one of the watchtowers," reported Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught.

Relatives of prisoners were gathered outside the jail.

When a group of heavily armed policemen arrived at the jail to restore order, the relatives set on them, with some attempting to assault them as they tried to gain access to the compound to reinforce security.

More than half a dozen minibuses ferried soldiers into the prison compound, while ambulances waited outside. One soldier helped a bloodied comrade who was brought outside the prison to be treated for cuts.

"These shameless people. They threw scissors at him," he said while his friend was being treated. "They have everything
inside, knives, daggers, everything. There's a whole gang of them."

Police used teargas to disperse the angry crowd outside the jail, after earlier scuffling with them. At its height, the crowd numbered more than 200.

The private Dogan news agency reported that some prisoners demanded to be let out late Tuesday when a 5.4-magnitude aftershock hit the area, while others set bedding on fire.

When the 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit the region on Sunday, some of the walls of the jail collapsed. The prisoners left the compound, but, after checking on the safety of their families, almost all returned to the prison.

"Clearly security at that point was breached ... and now there seems to be some kind of an uprising happening in the jail itself. Relatives of the people inside the jail tell me they've heard shots were fired and that some people in the jail have actually been restrained. They're very, very concerned about the safety of their families," reported Al Jazeera's McNaught.

The jail is not a maximum security facility, and is meant to confine prisoners who have been convicted of less serious crimes. Most of those incarcerated were convicted of petty crimes, or are political prisoners.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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