Officials in Taiwan say six prisoners have killed themselves after taking staff hostage in a failed bid for freedom. The standoff lasted some 14 hours.
Taiwanese officials said on Thursday that six inmates who took several prison officials hostage have committed suicide. The officials were released alive.
The siege began late on Wednesday in the port city of Kaohsiung, instigated by local gang leader Cheng Li-te, who was serving a 28-year sentence for homicide. His accomplices were all also serving long sentences for burglary, murder and drug crimes.
The official Central News Agency said the inmates lured two guards under the pretense of needing medical care. They then forced the guards to take them to the prison's armory, where they took bullets and firearms.
The guards initally taken hostage were later swapped for the the prison warden and head guard, after negotiations.
The hostage-takers were protesting at unfair trials and demanded safe passage from the prison.
"We tried to use all kinds of means to persuade them to release the hostages so the incident could come to a peaceful end and to prevent an unfortunate situation. We regret that six people took their lives," said Wu Hsien-chang, chief of the Justice Ministry's corrections agency.
Within hours of the hostage taking, armed police surrounded the prison. Witnesses reported gunfire coming from the prison.
Cheng belonged to the notorius mafia-type organization Bamboo Union. He had complained about the recent medical parole given to former Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian, who was sentenced to 20 years in jail for corruption.
jr/msh (dpa, AP, AFP)