20 Dead In Brazil Prison-Break Attempt.
Gunmen opened fire on a prison in northern Brazil on Tuesday in an effort to aid a breakout, but an ensuing gun battle with police left 20 people dead, mostly inmates and their would-be liberators.
Of the 20 killed at the Santa Izabel penitentiary in Para’s state capital, Belem, located near the mouth of the Amazon River, one was a guard and the other 19 were identified by authorities as prisoners or their supporters.
Four other guards were injured in the prison-break attempt, officials said.
According to The Associated Press: “The attempted breakout began when explosives were used against a prison wall, according to a statement from the state’s public security secretariat. Police and guards then exchanged gunfire with the armed men trying to help inmates escape and with inmates themselves who were armed, it said.”
The statement said the fighting at the prison had been intense and that the prison guards faced gunfire from inside and outside the prison walls.
NPR’s Philip Reeves reports that some of the inmates did manage to escape, but officials did not say how many. They are thought to be heavily armed and police are on a manhunt for the escapees.
Philip notes, “Brazil’s overcrowded prisons are dominated by drug gangs with access to guns and cell-phones and have a grim history of escapes, violence and massacres.”
Last year, a prison uprising in Manaus in Brazil’s Amazon region, left 56 dead during a 17-hour standoff. A total of 184 prisoners escaped, though many were eventually recaptured.
Brazil has among the world’s largest prison populations, with nearly 650,000 inmates in 2016.