Thursday, January 5, 2006 Posted : 2351 GMT (0751 HKT)
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) -- A shootout between inmates at Honduras’ biggest prison left at least 13 inmates dead and another 30 wounded on Thursday, officials said.
The confrontation began at the National Penitentiary on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, the capital. Honduran Security Minister Armando Calidonio said police and guards had restored control at the facility, and that at least one of the wounded inmates suffered serious injuries.
"The confrontation was between two rival groups of prisoners who fired shots at each other in a territorial dispute," Calidonio told The Associated Press.
He said officials had yet to determine how inmates got guns into the National Penitentiary, but said police are "intensively investigating" the clash.
"The situation has been controlled by the authorities, and police patrols have been established around the penitentiary to avoid problems or mass escapes," Calidonio said.
The clash occurred at a cellblock known as the "Casa Blanca," which holds about 200 of the prison’s most dangerous inmates.
"This was a fight between inmates," said assistant police commissioner Napoleon Nazar, whose investigative unit has eight teams working on the investigation inside the prison, together with human rights officials and prosecutors.
Honduras’ overcrowded, aging prisons have frequently been the scene of riots and fights between inmates -- especially members of rival street gangs.
At least 27 inmates were murdered at the prison in 2005, most by their cellmates.
Nearly 600 prisoners rioted at the facility in 2004 to protest the transfer of four of their leaders to another facility. No injuries were reported in that incident.
In 2004, a fire broke out in a cell block housing 182 gang inmates at another prison in the northern city of San Pedro Sula, killing more than 100 prisoners.
Firefighters said the flames were sparked by overheated electrical cables from the more than 75 domestic appliances the prisoners had been using.
Survivors of the fire claimed it was set deliberately by rival gang members.
Only about 30 percent of inmates in Honduran prisons have been convicted ; most wait anywhere from five to eight years for their cases to be decided.