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One killed, several injured in prison shootout

Latest update : 2008-09-08

Unknown gunmen opened fire on a prison in the southern Egyptian city of Assiut on Monday, killing an inmate and wounding 20 guards and prisoners.

At least 20 people, mostly inmates, were wounded when a riot erupted at a prison in southern Egypt on Monday, following the reportedly suspicious death of a fellow prisoner, a security official said.
  
The incident, which another security official earlier described as an armed attack on the prison, was sparked by the death of inmate Hani al-Ghandur, serving a seven-year sentence for assault.
  
He was found dead in solitary confinement on Monday, the official said, asking not to be named, with many of the jail's 3,000 prisoners believing he had been tortured to death.
  
The inmates revolted and prison authorities sent in a large number of riot police who used tear gas and rubber-coated bullets to bring the riot under control, injuring 17 prisoners and three prison guards.
  
Security forces now have complete control of one of the prison's two wings and are gradually retaking the other one, the official said.
  
Another official said the prisoners had taken firearms from three prison guards and used them on security forces, although this was not possible to confirm.
  
The prison in Assiut, 400 kilometres (250 miles) south of the capital Cairo, is in the town centre on the banks of the Nile.
  
A security official said earlier that unknown attackers had opened fire on the prison's entrance during visiting hours, killing a prisoner and wounding many others.
  
Assiut, the largest town in southern Egypt, is a business hub and home to a large Coptic Christian community.
  
The city and its surrounding area was a centre for Islamic militancy that rocked Egypt in the 1990s, although there was no suggestion of an Islamic connection with Monday's riot.
  
Conditions as Egyptian prisons are often dire and overcrowded. A lawyer said in June that prison guards near the Mediterranean city of Alexandria had beaten up 17 inmates to force them to end a hunger strike.
  
A security official denied such a beating had taken place.
  
According to a report published in May by the London-based human rights group Amnesty International, many Egyptian prisoners are kept behind bars despite repeated orders being issued for their release.
  
Rights groups also say that torture is regularly used by security forces, although prosecutions are rare.

Date created : 2008-09-08

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