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16 inmates killed in Sri Lanka prison shootout

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BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI | November 9, 2012 11:03 PM EST | AP

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — A shootout between rioting prisoners and security forces at a prison in Sri Lanka's capital killed at least 16 inmates, while police said Saturday that they arrested five prisoners who had managed to escape.

Another 42 people were wounded in the shootout Friday between inmates and army and police commandos that broke out after the rioting prisoners briefly took control of at least part of the facility in Colombo.

The prison was under control of security forces on Saturday, a senior prison official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Dr. Anil Jasinghe, director of the Colombo National Hospital, said 16 inmates had died in the clash and 23 others were injured and receiving treatment at the hospital.

Thirteen police officers, four soldiers, a prison guard and a passer-by also were being treated at the hospital for injuries, the doctor said.

Police spokesman Prishantha Jayakody said five prisoners who escaped from the prison had been arrested.

He said the fighting began when police commandos went to Welikada prison to conduct a search and were attacked by inmates hurling stones. He declined to provide more information. Officials often conduct raids for narcotics and communication devices.

An Associated Press photographer saw prisoners waving rifles atop the prison's roof Friday night.

Other prisoners piled into a three-wheeled vehicle and began driving toward a main city road before security forces outside the prison opened fire. The vehicle stopped, and three unmoving bodies could be seen.

Dozens of security officers then entered the prison, and volleys of gunfire rang out. Prisoners could be heard screaming, "Stop shooting!"

Army troops later were called in to help control the situation.

Prison chief P.W. Kodippili said inmates had broken into the prison's two armories and taken weapons stored there. The inmates opened fire at police commandos, who shot back, Kodippili told a local television channel Friday night.

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Associated Press photographer Gemunu Amarasinghe contributed to this report.