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Casualties May Rise in Brazil Prison Riot - 2002-01-03


Government officials in Brazil say the country's worst prison riot has killed a number of inmates. Officials fear the casualties may rise after police regain control the facility near the city of Porto Velho.

Police stormed a prison in the Brazilian Amazon Wednesday after fighting between prisoners left at least 30 dead and 10 injured. The rebellion at the Urso Branco penitentiary in the Amazon state of Rondonia started with a confrontation between prisoners in rival gangs, after a mass escape attempt failed.

The prisoners did not take hostages, but fought with makeshift knives, iron bars and smuggled firearms, and demanded that some 30 prisoners be transferred to other locations. Officials say all the inmates who died were killed by other prisoners.

Prison rebellions are common in Brazil. Conditions in prisons are poor and inmates often have access to smuggled weapons. Local media reports say the Rondonia prison houses approximately 800 inmates in 60 cells.

The death toll of this rebellion could be exceptionally high - last year a coordinated rebellion of over 20,000 inmates in 29 prisons in Brazil left 19 dead in comparison.

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