Four killed, dozens wounded in Sri Lanka prison riot

Last Updated 29 November 2020, 18:42 IST

Guards opened fire Sunday to contain a prison riot near Sri Lanka's capital where at least four inmates were killed and 24 wounded while protesting a surge of coronavirus infections, officials said.

Police spokesman Ajith Rohana said elite police commandos were deployed to the Mahara prison where had inmates rioted against overcrowded conditions and demanded their early release.

"Guards at Mahara have used force to control an unruly situation," Rohana said.

Police initially said one prisoner was killed and three wounded, but doctors at the nearby Ragama hospital said they received the bodies of four inmates, while another 24 were admitted with wounds.

Prison officials said rioting inmates had set fire to a section of the prison and firefighters had been called in to douse the flames.

Teams of elite police Special Task Force commandos have been sent to bolster security at the prison, police spokesman Rohana said.

Sunday's clashes were the culmination of weeks of unrest in several prisons across the country as the number of Covid-19 cases within Sri Lankan jails exceeded 1,000 by Saturday. Two inmates have died of the virus.

Last week, a prisoner was killed when he fell off while trying to scale the walls of a prison in the central Bogambara region during unrest inside the jail.

Prisons across the country went into a lockdown last week as the authorities reported a surge in infections among inmates as well as guards.

The number of Covid-19 deaths across the country have also increased six-fold this month to 116, while the total infections more than doubled to 23,484.

Sri Lanka had reported 19 deaths out of 10,424 people infected at the end of October.

The South Asian island nation of 21 million had claimed success in containing the virus first detected on January 27 in a Chinese woman tourist. Sri Lanka eased a three-month curfew on June 28, but a second wave of infections hit last month.

Authorities have said a newer and more virulent strain of the virus was now spreading in the island.

Schools in the country's most populous Western Province remained closed while parts of the capital are also under a strict lockdown since last month.

(Published 29 November 2020, 18:42 IST)

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