Tunisia: Tunisian Prisoners Break Out of Jail
Tunis — Forty-nine inmates broke out of a prison in Gabes on Sunday (September 1st), the president of the Prisons and Correctional Institution Syndicate told Magharebia.
“They violently assaulted a fellow prisoner in their cell until his blood covered the cell,” Olfa Ayari said in describing the breakout. “After that, they called a prison guard for help, and when he opened the cell, they took him as hostage and asked the rest of the inmates to leave the cell.”
“However, only 49 out of a total of 61 inmates at that cell responded,” she added.
Most of the escapees are common criminals, according to Ayari. Security forces managed to recapture 35 of them before they could leave town.
“Right now, I’m in the operations chamber following the chase of the rest of the escapees who were besieged in the province,” she said. “I have great trust in the security forces in recapturing those escapees and bringing them back to their cell.”
Tunisian prisons have been on alert “since Interpol issued a global security alert advising its 190 member states of a hellish plan by extremist groups to help inmates break out of prisons,” security specialist Mourad Ben Hnia said.
“However, this is just a coincidence, especially as the most dangerous terrorists are now incarcerated in Mornaguia’s central prison, in a Tunis suburb,” Ben Hnia added. “Therefore, what happened in Gabes can’t be linked to terrorist organisations.”
In early August, Interpol issued a global security alert about possible terrorist attacks in the wake of a series of prison breaks in Pakistan, Iraq and Libya.
The organisation said it suspects “al-Qaeda is involved in a large number of prison breakouts in which hundreds of terrorists and criminals escaped.”
Two days before the Gabes prison escape, a prison guard was assaulted by unknown assailants in central Tunis. He is now in the intensive care unit.
It is feared there might be a plan aimed at intimidating security forces and discouraging them from performing their tasks.
Ayari complained of a lack of supplies enabling Tunisian prison guards to defend themselves.
“They move among hardened criminals and terrorist leaders with bare hands; they are not allowed to use even a stick,” she said. “They are unarmed and can die any moment.”
“We’re dealing with dangerous developments of violence and terrorism with obsolete laws and supplies,” she added forcefully.
It is highly unlikely a prison break from the Mornaguia central prison could happen, Ayari pointed out. “Mornaguia central prison is under extremely tight guard and work there run around the clock,” she said. “We’ve even increased the number of agents to attend to this mission.”
Terrorists and hardened criminals and terrorists, including the killers of Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi, are incarcerated in the Mornaguia central prison.
Terrorist cases are kept in solitary confinement in Mornaguia and are not allowed to mix with common criminals, Mornaguia central prison security sources told Magharebia.
The justice ministry held an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the necessary precautions to prevent a repetition of the Gabes prison escape.