The death toll from the prison riot here rose to 27 on Saturday after prisoners and the military exchanged gun-fire overnight hours after the unrest erupted, the police and prison officials said. A spokesperson at the Colombo National Hospital said that 16 bodies were at the hospital overnight while the minister in charge of Sri Lanka’s prisons said that 11 bodies were still inside the prison premises.
The riot broke out at the Welikada prison, Sri Lanka’s prison headquarters, when prison guards backed by police commandos attempted to search a section of the prison for drugs and mobile phones smuggled into the premises, Prisons Commissioner P.W. Kodippili told Xinhua. He said that some of the prisoners had then broken down the doors of the section of the prison and made their way to the roof with weapons stolen from the prison armory. “Underworld members in the prison were mostly involved in the riot and instigated the attack on the police using the stolen weapons,” Kodippili said.
Minister of Rehabilitation and Prisons Reforms Chandrasiri Gajadeera told parliament on Saturday that most of the weapons stolen from the prison had been recovered. He said in all 82 guns had been stolen by the prisoners during the riot. Local media showed images of a three-wheel vehicle attempting to flee with prisoners from the prison during the riot resulting in a barrage of gunfire from the army.
The prisoners were killed in the gunfight and Kodippili said that a few others who had managed to escape were arrested. The army was deployed overnight to bring the situation under control as the prisoners continued to riot. By morning on Saturday the situation was brought under control and a busy road adjoining the prison was also reopened for traffic. Gajadeera said that a special investigation was launched into the incident.