MEDAN, INDONESIA – Around 1,000 Indonesian police and soldiers were hunting Friday for about 100 inmates, including convicted terrorists, who escaped from an overcrowded prison after setting it ablaze in riots that left five dead.
The inmates began rampaging through the jail in Medan city on Sumatra Island on Thursday afternoon, setting fires and hurling bottles at guards in anger over power cuts and water shortages at the facility.
The Tanjung Gusta jail was engulfed in towering flames and scores of firefighters battled through the night to douse them.
Some 150 prisoners initially escaped and police and soldiers on Friday were still desperately hunting for about 100 after recapturing several dozen overnight.
Prisoners are often kept in grim, overcrowded jails in Indonesia, and Tanjung Gusta is no exception as it currently holds well more than double its official capacity of 1,054.
Inmates were still in control of the prison early Friday, casually chatting outside their cells while heavily armed security forces formed a cordon round the building, a reporter at the scene said.
They allowed about two dozen soldiers in but did not let police enter, the reporter said.
“We don’t like police, they are inhumane, they frequently beat us,” one of the prisoners shouted.
Heru Prakoso, North Sumatra province police spokesman, said prisoners and a government official would hold talks later in the day in a bid to break the standoff.
Five people, three prisoners and two prison staff, had been killed in the riots, he added.
Prisoners still at large included six convicted terrorists, Prakoso said.