UPDF confirms 219 prisoners escaped, with guns and ammunition

Prisoners in a karamoja jail overpowered their guards and 219 of them escaped with at least 15 guns, but two were killed after security forces launched an operation to recapture them, a military spokesperson said on Thursday.

The inmates escaped late on Wednesday from a jail in Karamoja, a remote, semi-arid northeastern region, said the spokesperson, Brigadier Flavia Byekwaso.

Before taking off, they broke into the prison armoury and stole 15 AK-47 rifles, 20 magazines and other ammunition.

“It’s a mass escape … these were hard-core criminals, the group included murderers, robbers and rapists.” She added

 “A security operation is ongoing to recapture the prisoners, the fact they had some weapons and a head-start of hours of darkness made the search more difficult, they’ve had a whole night to disperse and hide, it complicates our efforts but we shall get them.” Byekwaso said.

It was Uganda’s third prisoner escape since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in March as fears of contracting the virus in cramped jails spurred inmates’ efforts to break out.

At least three cases of the coronavirus have been reported in Ugandan jails.

The total number of inmates in Uganda grew by 10% to 65,000 in the subsequent five months to August, according to the prisons service, a surge attributed to a large number of people apprehended for violations of various covid curbing measures like curfews and travel restrictions.

Karamoja, a mountainous area on Uganda’s border with Kenya, is also a mineral-rich region where both wildcat and large-scale miners dig for a range of minerals and metals including gold.

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