Indonesia police hunt escapees, regain control of jail

MEDAN, Indonesia - Indonesian police Friday hunted for around 100 inmates who escaped from an overcrowded jail after setting it ablaze in riots that left five dead, as security personnel regained control of the prison.

Inmates began rampaging through the jail in Medan city on Sumatra island on Thursday afternoon, setting alight fires and hurling bottles at guards in anger over power cuts and water shortages at the facility.

The Tanjung Gusta jail was engulfed in towering flames and scores of firefighters battled through the night to douse them.

Some 150 prisoners, including militants, escaped and police and soldiers were on Friday still desperately hunting for around 100 convicts after recapturing several dozen overnight.

"We have gradually regained control of the prison and soldiers have entered the prison without resistance," said Akbar Hadi Prabowo, the spokesman for Indonesia's directorate general of penitentiary told AFP.

The Justice and Human Rights minister Amir Syamsuddin has held talks with representatives of the prisoners, Akbar said, without giving further details, adding that the minister will hold a press conference later today.

Prisoners are often held in grim, overcrowded jails in Indonesia, and Tanjung Gusta is no exception as it currently holds well over double its official capacity of 1,054.

The prisoners were seen casually chatting outside their cells early Friday while heavily armed security forces formed a cordon round the building, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

They allowed in about two dozen soldiers but did not let police enter, the reporter said.

"We don't like police, they are inhumane, they frequently beat us," one of the prisoners shouted, as another waved a charred gun and handcuffs at officers.

Five people - three prisoners and two prison staff - had died in the riots, the deputy minister of Justice and Human Rights Denny Indrayana said.

The two prison staff had become trapped in their burning office, he added.

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