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More than 20 people killed in Venezuela prison riot

More than 20 people were killed in a prison riot in Venezuela that began Sunday night. It is the latest incident in the South American country known for its notoriously violent prisons.

"There are more than 20 [dead] and a family member of one of the prisoners also lost their life," said the Venezuelan minister in charge of prisons, Iris Varela, on state television station VTV.

According to Varela, violence between rival gangs erupted on Sunday night at the Yare I prison near the capital Caracas, but had been brought under control by Monday.

This is not the first time violence has engulfed Venezuelan prisons. In June 2011, a riot at a prison just outside Caracas required more than 5,000 troops to spend about a month trying to quell an uprising at El Rodeo jail. More than 25 people were killed.

Last week, the warden of a prison in the northwestern city of Maracaibo escaped unharmed on Thursday when a group of inmates shot at him, local authorities said.

In July, 22 people were killed in a prison riot. After that incident, Prisons Minister Varela said such a situation would never happen again.

The Venezuelan Prisons Observatory, a non-governmental watchdog tracking the detention system, recently reported that 304 people were killed in prison violence in the first six months of 2012. That represented an increase of around 15 percent over figures for the same period last year.

Venezuelan government officials say there are currently around 50,000 inmates in a system designed to hold 14,000.

bm/msh (AFP, dapd)