16 inmates were killed and more than 45 have sustained injuries in a clash between Sri Lankan Special Task Force elite commandos and Sinhala hardcore prisoners, initial reports from Colombo said. A group of STF elite commandos, who entered the Welikada prison in Colombo, on a search operation has provoked anger among the Sinhala inmates after engaging in verbal abuse against the prisoners. The rioting prisoners seized an arms storage at the prison and started firing against the STF personnel, wounding 13 of them. One of those wounded was a Deputy Inspector General, news sources in Colombo said.
The section affected by the riot in the prison was the quarters of hardcore criminal inmates and remand prisoners, most of whom are Sinhalese.
As the prisoners began to stone the STF commandos and seized the weapons from the prison, additional troops were rushed to control the riot that has erupted inside the prison.
In an earlier history, the Welikada prison, called the “maximum security Central Jail” in the island, had turned out to be notorious when over 50 Tamil prisoners had been massacred by the Sinhalese guards and prisoners during the anti-Tamil pogrom in July 1983.
Tamil prisoners were not affected by the riots on Friday, according to initial reports.
More than 200 Tamil political prisoners, arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), are kept at this Welikada prison. They are kept in detention without any charges filed against them for a prolonged period of time.
The Tamil inmates have been protesting for several years demanding action to release or to initiate legal proceedings against them.