More than 20 dangerous criminals escaped Sunday from the only prison in the capital of Guinea-Bissau, one of the world’s poorest countries and a key cocaine trafficking hub, officials said.
The jailbreak in Bissau’s central prison, occurred when a new prisoner arrived, a jail official said.
“I was putting a new prisoner in his cell. As I opened the door, a prisoner punched me in the face. The others then escaped en masse, opening other cells where there were dangerous criminals and escaped,” the prison guard said.
A police official confirmed the flight.
A woman who witnessed the escape said the prisoners shoved the guards, pushed one to the ground, and ran, blending into the crowd thronging Bandim, Bissau’s largest market.
Police had been deployed in the teeming market to track down the prisoners, an eye-witness said.
Guinea-Bissau’s prisons are overcrowded which, along with budgetary constraints, means the country often struggles to jail convicts.
In 2006, the United Nations constructed two high-security prisons in Mansoa, about 60 kilometres (40 miles) from the capital, and in Bafata, located some 150 kilometres away.
Guinea-Bissau has been plagued by military coups and instability since its independence from Portugal in 1974.