At least 11 prisoners have escaped from a prison in central Greece after gunmen attacked the site with grenades and automatic weapons.

"Now we have to redesign the security plan of the prisons ... There is a risk of attacks coming from the outside to help inmates escape"

- Antonis Roupakiotis,
Greek Minister of Justice

Officials said up to six gunmen injured two guards, one seriously in the jailbreak near the town of Trikala, about 320km northwest of Athens, at 8:30pm local time (18:30 GMT) on Friday.

According to Saturday's Greek media reports, all 11 missing prisoners are Albanians serving sentences for robbery and theft.

The Ministry of Justice said in a written statement that gunmen using "two vehicles and very heavy weapons'' attacked the prison's outside guards, a prison patrol vehicle and two police cars.

"During the exchange of heavy fire that lasted over half an hour and turned the area into a battlefield, two perimeter guards were injured in the abdomen, one of them seriously,'' the ministry said.

Escapees arrested

A police official told the Associated Press that police had found and arrested two of the escaped prisoners on Saturday afternoon.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the media, said that they were hiding in a church near the prison.

Police said they arrested a third escapee in a nearby village later on Saturday.

The escaped prisoners used ropes and bed sheets tied together to climb down from a guard tower that had been attacked.

They went through two more perimeter fences, topped by barbed wire, before they escaped.

Police said they had recovered wire-cutting tools.

'Commando operation'

Greek Minister of Justice Antonis Roupakiotis described the jailbreak on Saturday as a "commando operation."

"Until now we were worried that inmates would escape from the inside, because this was the danger," Roupakiotis said.

"Now we have to redesign the security plan of the prisons, because as it seems with the new form that organised crime has taken, there is a risk of attacks coming from the outside to help inmates escape."

He said that there was now a risk of attacks coming from the outside to help inmates escape.

Police set up roadblocks near the prison and searched vacant homes and farm buildings. They used two helicopters in the search.

The attack was the latest dramatic incident at Greek prisons, which are overcrowded and short-staffed as the country struggles through a financial crisis and a recession that began in late 2008.

Source: Agencies