The Welikada prison located in Colombo, Sri Lanka was the site of violence, as 27 people were killed when prisoners started to fire upon special police forces. Officers in the prison were searching for illegal drugs and cell phones when the violence erupted. The prison is Sri Lanka’s largest.
Army personnel were able to bring the fighting under control, while staff of the prison held hostage by inmates was finally released. The minister of prisons for Sri Lanka told parliament that there were 27 confirmed deaths
The conflict started when police special forces were leaving the prison after completing their search for cell phones and drugs. They came under attack by inmates who started throwing rocks. The police responded by firing teargas canisters at the inmates, but prisoners responded by firing their own weapons at police.
Witnesses to the killings told reporters that prisoners were armed and on the roof of the prison, firing at the police and at prison guards. The prison’s commissioner stated that the inmates had stormed the prison armory and were using those weapons to fire on police personnel. Weapons they stole included machine guns.
Not all of the weapons that were stolen have been located and police and prison guards are currently trying to locate the missing weapons. A count of inmates was also taking place as security personnel believe some of the 4,500 inmates might have escaped.
A police official said that the commanding officer of the elite forces had been hospitalized in critical condition and that 16 officers had been killed and 59 injured. The prison inmates include members of the Tamil rebels who lost a long civil war in 2009.