Violence erupts at Haiti prison, 3 inmates killed

Inmates briefly held seven foreign hostages, including police and corrections officials

By Jonathan M. Katz
The Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Two inmates were shot to death trying to escape from the roof of Haiti's quake-damaged national penitentiary and a third was trampled to death inside during a prison riot Sunday, authorities said.

U.N. police spokesman Jean-Francois Vezina said at least 100 U.N. police were inside Haiti's biggest prison when the uprising occurred. Inmates briefly held seven foreigners hostages — three U.N. police, two U.N. corrections officials and two unidentified visitors touring the facility — before releasing them, some with minor injuries, he said.

The violence inside the blue and white concrete building in downtown Port-au-Prince erupted Sunday morning when an inmate faked illness, then stole a guard's weapon after he was taken to the infirmary, Justice Ministry official Joseph Felix Badio told The Associated Press.

Badio said seven police officers were injured inside the prison that holds about 1,500 inmates, but national police said they could not confirm that.

Video shot by a local journalist from a nearby building and obtained by the AP showed U.N. and Haitian police moving around outside the walls, shooting upward at inmates on the roof. A man is seen running on the roof, carrying a long black object, as a voice off camera says, "He has a gun." It is unclear if the object is a weapon.

No prisoners were seen shooting in the video. Neighborhood witnesses said they saw rocks thrown from the roof at the street, and pointed out damage to cars.

U.N. peacekeepers from Jordan, Brazil and other countries used armored vehicles and assault rifles to keep onlookers — and journalists — away during and immediately after the unrest. Haitian police stood guard closer to the building.

Police officials familiar with the prison said some inmates had escaped. They agreed to discuss the unrest on condition they not be identified because they were not authorized to talk to the news media.

Sunday's uprising continued a long saga of unrest and dangerous conditions in Haiti's prisons.

In the chaos after the devastating earthquake on Jan. 12, thousands of prisoners escaped from the dangerously overcrowded penitentiary, including some well-known, dangerous gang leaders.

A week later, at least 12 prisoners were killed and 40 wounded during an escape attempt at a prison in the southern town of Les Cayes, which was outside the zone damaged by the quake.



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