11 Nov 2012

27 dead in prison gunfight

5:55 am on 11 November 2012

At least 27 people have been killed in a gunfight in Sri Lanka in the worst prison violence in the country for decades.

The army brought the violence under control before dawn on Saturday and freed staff held hostage at the Welikada prison in the capital Colombo, jail officials and the military say.

The violence erupted when officers from the Special Task Force, Sri Lanka's elite police commandos, were searching the jail for drugs and illegal mobile phones, Reuters reports.

The commanding officer of the force was wounded and is in intensive care.

The Prisons Commissioner said the prisoners had obtained weapons by breaking into the prison armoury.

Some of the prisoners escaped but it is unclear how many.

Witnesses said they saw police shooting towards the jail, where armed prisoners were on the roof during the clash.

Army Spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya said a large number of weapons were found during a search operation that followed the gunfight.