Monday 31 January 2011
Egypt - Thousands of prisoners escape
30/01/2011 - Guards missing, prisoners killed or escaped and soldiers looking for them: favoured by the Egyptian revolt, prisons on Sunday have known massacres or were emptied of their inmates.
In the district of Maadi, near the notorious Tora prison in southern Cairo, soldiers set up roadblocks and searched cars in search of fugitives.
In the Tora prison, known to hold numerous Islamic militants, gunfire could be heard coming from inside the walls on Sunday as soldiers, bayonets fixed, surrounded the building. A tank fired into the air in bursts to scare people away.
In the district of Abu Zaabal, on the outskirts of Cairo, corpses were lined up in a mosque. According Amgad, a member of the "popular committees" set up to stop looting, of the 14 bodies, two were policemen and the rest were escaped prisoners.
According to eyewitnesses in the area, the previous night prisoners seized the weapons from their guards and used them to escape.
Sunday morning a handful of prisoners who had only weeks to do remained in the cell, refused to escape for fear of being picked up and convicted again.
Eight members of the Palestinian Hamas escaped from Abu Zaabal and at least two according to a Palestinian official in Gaza, managed to return to Gaza through smuggling tunnels.
And 34 Muslim Brotherhood, the leaders Islamist group officially banned in Egypt, managed to leave the prison of Wadi Natron, north of Cairo, after the guards deserted their posts, "said one of their lawyers.
A source within the security services told AFP that in the night from Saturday to Sunday, thousands of prisoners overcame their guards in Wadi Natron and were scattered in nearby towns and villages.
The official news agency MENA said that many prisoners had seized weapons from their guards.
The Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Mursi said on Al-Jazeera that the Islamist prisoners had not escaped. "We did not flee. It is the people who opened our doors," he said. "We are doing very well." He said the Brotherhood leaders Essam el-Erian and Saad el-Katatni were among those who had been released.
Also dozens of detainees in Fayum, south of Cairo, fled after clashes with police had killed one person among the police.
Prisoners have also fled smaller prisons in other Egyptian provinces, but no figures were available Sunday evening. These escapes occurred when waves of rioting and looting spread throughout the country, despite the deployment of the army to try to maintain order.
Several areas were still in chaos Sunday after the police had disappeared from the streets and boulevards. In an attempt to cope, people have organized into groups of self-defense, mostly armed with sticks and clubs and took up positions in the streets. A curfew was imposed in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez and the army deployed in the streets, capturing escaped prisoners and looters.
Posted by sysiphus at 10:40