Deadly riots erupt at Indonesian prison

Five dead in overcrowded jail as inmates riot, set fires and hold officers hostage over lack of access to water.

Indonesia prison riots
Inmates started rioting after a power cut stopped their access to water [Reuters]

At least five people have been killed in violent riots at a jail in western Indonesia during which about 200 prisoners escaped, police have said.

The dead were killed in chaos after fires were lit by inmates rioting in the overcrowded facility in Medan city on Sumatra island on Friday.

“Three are prisoners, two are prison staff,” said Heru Prakoso, North Sumatra province police spokesman.

Security forces later regained control of the Tanjung Gusta prison, AP news agency reported. About 500 policemen and 300 soldiers had been deployed around the facility.

Prison directorate spokesman Akbar Hadi said the situation was under control after soldiers entered the jail without resistance.

Al Jazeera’s Florence Looi, reporting from Jakarta, said that 15 of the escaped prisoners were convicted of “terrorism” offenses and two of them were recaptured, according to police resources. At least 60 inmates have been recaptured, she added.

Minister meeting inmates

Hundreds of policemen blocked roads linking Medan to the provinces of Aceh, Jambi and West Sumatra while searching for prisoners who escaped during the riot.

The Indonesian justice and human rights minister met seven inmates, who were escorted out of the prison earlier on Friday morning. The inmates had demanded a meeting with the minister.

The riot appeared to have been triggered by a blackout that knocked out the pumps supplying water to the prison, leaving inmates without water since Thursday morning.

Hadi said the inmates forced their way out of Tanjung Gusta Prison, while others set the prison’s offices on fire.

Hadi said about 15 officers were being held captive inside the prison that holds about 2,400 prisoners, although media reports said its actual capacity was just 400.

BeritaSatu TV station reported that the prisoners seized guns from the officers and its reporter said gunshots were heard from inside the prison.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies