Brazil prison break attempt leaves 21 dead | News | DW | 11.04.2018
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Brazil prison break attempt leaves 21 dead

A military-style firefight took the lives of at least 20 people in an attempted jailbreak in the city of Belem. Criminal gangs control many prisons in Brazil and inmates had teamed up with outside attackers.

An attempted prison escape in northern Brazil ended in tragedy on Tuesday, as 21 people died in a firefight that that took place when outsiders attempted to blast a hole in one of the jail's walls.

The violent event took place in the city of Belem, located on the edge of the Amazon River Delta, in the state of Para. A group of armed men attempted to storm the Santa Izabel Penitentiary Complex to help free the prisoners inside, who were also armed.

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Authorities said that after the explosion, prison guards fought back in "an intense exchange of gunfire." The situation was not under control until more police reinforcements arrived. At the conclusion of the incident, police were able to recover two rifles and five handguns at the scene.

Of the 21 dead, 15 were armed individuals that tried to break into the jail, five were inmates and one was a prison guard, according to local media, citing official sources.

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The Santa Izabel Penitentiary Complex houses 659 inmates, despite having a capacity of 432. Human Rights organizations have denounced the deficient sanitary conditions and overcrowding at the prison.

Riots, escape attempts, gang violence and disputes over drug trafficking are commonplace problems in Brazil's overcrowded prisons. The South American nation holds the worlds fourth largest prison population.

Read more: Brazil: Army takes control of Rio security in bid to quash gang violence

In 2016, there were 726,712 inmates and capacity for only 368,000 nationwide, according to recent official statistics. In many cases, security staff are unable to control what happens in the prisons and assume a bystander role, with inmates running daily life at the jails.

Brazil is also one of the world's deadliest countries, with around 60,000 homicides a year.

jcg/rt  (dpa, AFP)

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