Five Lebanese prisoners die in accident following mass prison break-out


Members of the Lebanese police gather outside Baabda prison, Lebanon, November 21, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Five escaping prisoners died on Saturday when their car hit a tree after more than 60 detainees broke out of a Lebanese detention centre outside the capital Beirut, Lebanon's Internal Security Forces (ISF) said in a statement.

The ISF statement did not say how the 69 prisoners had escaped from the facility, which a security source said holds pre-trial detainees and is part of Baabda district prison near Beirut.

President Michel Aoun was briefed by the caretaker interior minister about the break-out and ordered that search operations be intensified and the incident be investigated, the Presidency tweeted.

The ISF said 15 prisoners had been caught while four others turned themselves in. The five died when a car they seized crashed into a tree in what the statement described as an accident while one prisoner was injured and taken to hospital.

The state news agency NNA earlier said the prisoners had escaped from the prison at dawn after breaking open cell doors.

In April, Amnesty International said there had been riots inside Lebanese jails and families had organised sit-in protests calling for the release of prisoners over concerns about the spread of COVID-19 in overcrowded prisons.

It said that while the Lebanese government had taken several measures, including some releases, the authorities should prioritise releasing prisoners who had served their sentences and expedite a review of pre-trial detainees.

(Reporting by Beirut bureau; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Mark Potter and James Drummond)

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