Official: 49 Tunisia prisoners break out of jail

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Dozens of Tunisian inmates staged a prison break in a southern coastal town after overpowering guards, a top corrections official said Monday.

Police and soldiers searched the town of Gabes for the 49 inmates and succeeded in recapturing 32 of them, some of whom came back willingly, others who were returned by their families.

The prison break occurred when guards went to investigate cries for help from a cell crammed with 68 inmates late Sunday, Col. Hicham Ouni, security director for Tunisia’s prisons, told The Associated Press. The prisoners said one of the inmates had been injured by a fan but when the guards opened the gate, they were rushed and their keys taken. Three guards were injured in the escape attempt.

Ouni described the inmates as mostly young people and common criminals and said that none were in prison for terrorist-related crimes.

Inmates broke out of the same prison in 2011 during the uprising that overthrew Tunisia’s president and kicked off the Arab Spring. A total of 11,000 prisoners escaped during the uprising, though about 8,000 were recaptured.

With a population of 10 million, Tunisia has around 22,000 prisoners, most held in cramped facilities and poor conditions. Some prisons are running at more than triple capacity.

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