The violence was brought under control by the army before sunrise
November 11, 2012 – While officers were in the Welikada prison searching for illegal drugs and mobile phones, violence erupted. Officials at the prison, located in Colombo, said 27 people had been killed, while a senior officer had been seriously wounded. The prison is the largest in Sri Lanka and police said a gunfight started when policed were shot at by inmates.
The violence was brought under control by the army before sunrise. Staff that had been held hostage was also freed said the military and prison officials. Chandrasiri Gajadeera, the Prisons minister told Sri Lanka’s parliament that 27 were confirmed dead.
When the special police force was exiting the prison after conducting the search for drugs and mobile phones, prisoners attacked them with rocks. The police responded with teargas, but the prisoners fired at the police.
Witnesses told reporters they saw the police shooting at the inmates, while the prisoners were armed and on the roof shooting back.
The commissioner of prisons P.W. Kodippili stated that the prisoners had broken into the armory of the prison and stolen weapons that included machine guns. Efforts are taking place now to find the rest of the stolen weapons and to look for escapees. An army spokesperson said weapons in the possession of the prisoners were located along with six bodies during their search.
The elite polices forces’ commanding officer was hospitalized in intensive care at the national hospital. An official said 59 had been injured and 16 killed.
The Colombo prison has over 4,500 inmates, which includes members of what was once the Tamil rebels, who were defeated in a long war that ended in 2009. However, officials did not know if how many if any had been involved in the altercation. Currently a full count of the inmates is taking place to see how many had escaped.