Authorities in Papua New Guinea shot dead 11 prisoners and recaptured 17 others after they broke out of a local prison Thursday after attacking and injuring police officers.
There is, however, some discrepancy over the number of prisoners who managed to escape. According to local news website Papua New Guinea Today, over 50 prisoners escaped from the facility. However, local news network EMTV reported that more than 30 prisoners attacked two guards at the Buimo jail in Lae City and escaped from the prison. Official estimates about the number of absconding prisoners have not been released yet.
“It is confirmed that 11 prisoners have been shot and killed and 17 wounded and recaptured,” Metropolitan Superintendent Anthony Wagambie said Thursday, according to EMTV. “Police will await for CS (correctional Service officers) to confirm number and identity of escapees before we try to locate them,” Wagambie added.
Wagambie also warned local residents not to harbor fugitives and said that those who safeguard escaped prisoners will be arrested.
“I am warning the general public to be cautious on the movements and take necessary precautions. I am anticipating a rise in criminal activities in the city with the large number of escapees on the run,” Wagambie said, according to Papua New Guinea Today.
The escaped inmates also include those who have been convicted of serious offenses like murder, rape and robbery.
Papua New Guinea Today reported the prison break seems to be carefully planned over a long period of time and was carried out because the prisoners at the facility faced unfavorable conditions. The facility has been under controversy since 2012 as several young people have been held in remand for a long period of time due to lack of speedy trials, EMTV reported. Prisoners have also reportedly complained of abuse by officers.
Last year, 55 inmates had escaped from the prison, EMTV reported.
A report last year by Human Rights Watch said that United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Christof Heyns visited Papua New Guinea earlier that year and expressed concerns over “police use of excessive force during arrest, interrogation, and pretrial detention, sometimes resulting in death.”
In October, Prime Minister O’Neill admitted the police brutalities and said that a hotline number will be established for the general public to report such instances of abuse.