Armed inmates take warden, others hostage in Taiwan prison

2015-02-11 20:53


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Taipei - Six inmates took prison staff including the warden hostage, seized guns and ammunition, and demanded safe exit from a prison in southern Taiwan on Wednesday, authorities and local media reports said.

Authorities have not agreed to the demands of the inmates, who were holding Warden Chen Shih-chih and another prison official after the pair offered to swap themselves for earlier hostages, the Ministry of Justice said.

The inmates - serving long sentences for burglary, murder and drug crimes - also seized from the prison's armory four rifles, six handguns, and more than 200 bullets, the ministry said.

Witnesses interviewed by private cable news station TVBS said gunshots were heard. Other reports said the shots were fired into the air.

Within hours, armed police had surrounded the prison in the port city of Kaohsiung, and authorities had called on relatives of the inmates to plea for the release of the hostages.

The felons demanded the police force be withdrawn and that two fully fuelled vehicles be provided to allow them to leave in exchange for the safety of the detainees, but the ministry said it turned down the requests.

Authorities identified Cheng Li-teh as the man who led the confrontation. Cheng is a member of the well-known mafia-type organisation Bamboo Union, and he is serving a 28½-year sentence for homicide, the justice ministry said. The other five are serving sentences ranging from 25 years to life.

The inmates used the need for medical care as a pretence to lure prison guards before kidnapping them, the official Central News Agency said. Other media reports suggested the move had been premeditated.

The Ministry of Justice said Chen, the prison warden, and Wang Shih-tsang, another prison official, offered to be hostages in exchange for earlier detainees.

President Ma Ying-jeou requested that authorities stay calm and ensure the safety of the hostages and of those on the scene, said Ma Wei-kuo, spokesperson for the president's office.

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