By James Apa Gumuno
FIVE prisoners were shot dead in Baisu jail outside Mt Hagen last Friday as warders resorted to the use of firearms to prevent a mass jailbreak.
At least seven others received bullet wounds and had been rushed to hospital.
Those killed and injured were part of at least 55 prisoners who dashed for freedom at the jail last Friday afternoon.
Sources said 18 prisoners, including five killed, had been recaptured while 37 were still at large.
Correctional Services sources said the prisoners who broke out had earlier gathered with others and asked the guards to tell them if they would be transferred to other jails in the country.
The prisoners expressed concern about their health and safety following an outbreak of dysentery and suspected cholera.
A report published last week said three prisoners had died of dysentery.
It was understood that health authorities had inspected the jail and had declared the facility unsafe for human habitation. However, this could not be confirmed.
A correctional officer said the prisoners demanded a transfer, and escaped after seeing fellow prisoners die last week of dysentery-type illnesses, while many others fell seriously ill and were on medication.
He said the prisoners, who were outside the jail compound, demanded the two guards looking after the main jail compound to tell one of the senior officers to come and explain what was being done about the health condition at the jail.
They become angry when a senior correctional officer yelled out that “there is no money” to transfer them to other jails.
The senior officer then ordered the guards to round up the prisoners into their cells and lock them up, and this was when the prisoners reacted by overpowering the guards.
The officer said as the prisoners got over the last gates and headed out, they were shot at.
Many of those who were unaccounted for swam across the Waghi River.
On Saturday, 50 other prisoners from Baisu were transferred to Barawagi jail in Chimbu.
The plan was to transfer the remaining 183 to other jails in the Highlands region.
Mt Hagen metropolitan police commander Chief Insp John Kale confirmed the incident yesterday.
Kale said he would release a report on the breakout today.
The killing of the five prisoners was likely to raise human rights issues.
A senior correctional officer at Bomana said: “Warders have procedures to follow in the event of a breakout, and, when to use a firearm.
“I would expect that an inquiry will be held into these killings at the jail.”