Four prisoners killed in mass escape attempt
DHAMAR — Four prisoners were killed and five injured, two of which in critical conditions as the prisoners tried to break free from Dhamar Central Prison on Saturday afternoon Dec. 31, 2011. The prison security which is in charge of 755 prisoners in the overcrowded establishment managed to prevent the prisoners from fleeing despite them breaking through the internal prison gate.
Gunfire fighting took place on Saturday midnight and continued until Sunday early morning between security units backed with troops of the republican guards and armed tribesmen came from surrounding rural areas to break into the prison and free the prisoners.
One solider of the republican guards was injured during the fighting with unknown armed men who fled the city after failing to break into the prison.
The prisoners had managed to take seven of the guards as hostages and confiscate their weapons before backup arrived. Most of the detainees who tried to escape were convicted felons of murder and dangerous crimes according to the prison security.
“When they took hold of our colleagues and we realized they had their weapons we had no choice but to fire on them and use tear gas so we regain control of the facility,” said a source in the prison security.
The source said that back up was called from the anti-riot police, the central security and republican guards and all surrounded the prison and helped prevent the break-free operation.
Eye witnesses from the area said that they heard the loud noises, gun shots and later ambulance sirens in the evening heading from the prison towards Dhamar Public Hospital.
One of the prisoners told The Yemen Times that the leaders of this operation had planned Saturday afternoon as the best time to attempt escaping because most of the guards are busy chewing qat and some will be outside the prison for some personal errands,” he said.
The guards only carry personal arms such as pistols and it was easy to overtake seven of them according to the prisoner who witnessed the operation. However, he said that sporadic gun shots were heard outside the prison and even in the yard until late in the night.
This is not the first attempt by the prisoners to escape, the most recent was in mid December which also failed. An investigation committee from the Parliament was said to be reviewing the prison’s conditions. Alarm was raised regarding this issue when some locals accused the prison security of holding prisoners for political reasons relating to the assassination of Dhamar’s deputy governor end of 2011. However, the results of this investigation has not been made public yet.
The prisoners complain of horrible insufficient meals saying that what used to be one person’s share is now being divided on three inmates. They also complain that there are over 70 detainees who should have been released after completing their time but were not.
“Some of the inmates are here because of very silly crimes such as stealing a donkey. And even then they are placed with hardcore criminals and this is not fair and is dangerous. Also the juveniles are kept with us in the same prison and they learn from the more experienced criminals,” said one of the prisoners to The Yemen Times. “They are also subjected to danger being with the adults.”
The prison security is currently keeping the facility under strict surveillance as they fear armed tribal men will attack the prison and help free their relatives inside. Moreover, the two killed prisoners come from prominent families and their tribes might cause problems for the state over their sons’ deaths.
A source from Dhamar local authority confirmed that the security’s concerns are legitimate especially since some armed tribal men did try to break through the security siege surrounding the prison on Sunday morning.