Sri Lanka looks for prison escapees after deadly riot

Sri Lankan authorities launched a search for five inmates after a roll call Tuesday found they may have escaped from the country’s maximum security prison during a weekend riot that left 27 dead.

Prisons spokesman Gamini Kulatunga said the roll call showed that four convicts and a remand suspect were missing from the Welikada prison following rioting that lasted from Friday evening to early Saturday.

"We are looking for the five men who may have escaped during the clashes," Kulatunga told AFP. He did not give further details of the inmates.

Kulatunga said that normality had been restored at the prison where 4,000 inmates are being held.

However he also said that four weapons — an assault rifle, a revolver, a pistol and a tear gas gun — were missing from the prison armoury.

On Monday, police maintained that only one unnamed prisoner had escaped. Seven convicts tried to get away on Friday night, but were arrested almost immediately, according to police.

Another group of six convicts who tried to get away in a hijacked auto rickshaw taxi were shot dead by security forces just outside the prison gates.

The main opposition party has accused troops of murdering in "cold blood" at least 11 of the 27 inmates killed at the jail in Colombo during the rioting that was sparked by a police commando search for contraband.

The military has denied excesses, insisting it faced "stiff resistance" from prisoners armed with assault rifles looted from the prison armoury.

The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission asked the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Christof Heyns, to press Colombo to ensure those responsible for the killings be brought to justice.

All but five bodies of the 27 convicts killed in the clashes had been handed over to relatives, police said. Autopsy reports have not been made public, but hospital sources said many were shot in the upper part of their bodies.

Forty-three people, including 13 police commandos, four soldiers and two civilians, were injured.

[Full Coverage]

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