Four Islamists escape Kyrgyz prison, kill three guards - government

BISHKEK - Four Islamists broke out of a prison in Kyrgyzstan on Sunday night, killing three guards, the Central Asian state's government said on Monday.

Two of the escapees were serving life sentences on charges of religious extremism and terrorism, while the other two had been charged with the same offences, the prison authority said.

Five other prisoners escaped with them, but were later captured, the authority added.

It said three of the four men still at large were members of Jaish al-Mahdi, a group which Kyrgyzstan has accused of carrying out several bomb attacks and plotting a coup.

Russia retains a military air base in the Central Asian state, fearing an advance of militant Islam in the region. Also closely watching is China, whose restive Xinjiang region borders Kyrgyzstan and which is present in several Kyrgyz industries, including energy and mining.

Security forces killed six gunmen in clashes in Kyrgyzstan's capital three months ago.