COLOMBO - Forty-six policemen and two prison officials were injured Sunday when a drugs raid at Sri Lanka's main jail in the capital Colombo sparked violence, officials and doctors said.
Convicts beat up police as they stormed the Welikada prison to search for hidden narcotics as part of a nationwide crackdown against illegal drugs, police said.
The director of Colombo National Hospital, Hector Weerasinghe, said the 46 policemen and two prison officials had been brought for treatment: "We were told that they were beaten up by prisoners when they tried to carry out a search," Weerasinghe said.
"Most of them have head and chest injuries."
It was not immediately clear if any prisoners were wounded. Prisons deputy minister Vijithamuni Soysa said police had obtained a search warrant from a magistrate before entering the prison.
The clashes came as the police announced the results of an anti-narcotics drive that led to the arrest of over 11,500 suspects and the seizure of large quantities of heroin and cannabis. The drug search was being extended to the Welikada prison on Sunday.
Overall, the raids, which started three weeks ago, have resulted in over 3,000 court cases, while many more will be filed soon, spokesman Prishantha Jayakody said.
"Within a three-week period we have arrested 11,639 suspects in connection with drug-related offences," Jayakody said, adding that all 425 police stations in the country carried out simultaneous raids.
It was the biggest single concerted drive to crack down on illegal drugs and millions of rupees worth of narcotics have been seized, he added.
In February, police seized heroin worth 780,000 dollars in a major blow to smugglers who are believed to use the island as a trafficking route from India.