Source: Agencies | 2012-11-11 | NEWSPAPER EDITION
AT least 27 people were killed and a senior police officer seriously wounded in a gunfight in Sri Lanka's biggest prison that began when police came under fire from inmates, officials and police said yesterday.
The army brought the violence under control before dawn and freed staff held hostage at the Welikada prison in the capital Colombo, jail and army officials said.
Twenty-seven people have been confirmed dead, prisons minister Chandrasiri Gajadeera told parliament.
The violence erupted when officers from the Special Task Force, elite police commandoes, were searching the jail for drugs and illegal mobiles. "When they were coming out, prisoners started to attack them with stones. The STF used teargas and the prisoners fired back," police spokesman Prishantha Jayakody said.
Witnesses said they saw police shooting towards the jail, where armed prisoners were on the roof during the battle.
Prisons Commissioner PW Kodippili said the prisoners had obtained the weapons -- some of them machine-guns - by breaking into the prison armory.
Army Spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya said a large number of weapons were found along with six bodies during the search operation.
"We've got 59 injured and 51 are still taking treatments and 16 are dead bodies," an official at the hospital said.
The jail has about 4,500 inmates, including members of the former defeated Tamil rebels from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam that fought a protracted war of independence, ending in 2009.