Riot, fire hit jail on Indonesia's Bali

2012-02-22 13:01

Denpasar - Indonesian police stormed a prison on the resort island of Bali on Wednesday to regain control after inmates burned offices and seized weapons in a riot during which two prisoners were shot and wounded, officials said.

Indonesian police said none of about 60 foreign prisoners at Kerobokan jail were among the casualties.

The prison holds 1 200 inmates and is about 10km north of Kuta beach, one of the biggest holiday destinations on an island that attracts tourists from around the world.

Australia's Foreign Ministry said earlier it was urgently checking on the welfare of 12 Australian prisoners at the jail, including convicted drug traffickers Schapelle Corby and the so-called Bali Nine.

Fighting at the prison broke out late on Tuesday when inmates attacked a guard post near the entrance, forcing officers to flee. Police said they shot two inmates in the legs when they confronted a mob wielding sticks and throwing bricks.

Hundreds of armed police and army personnel stormed the prison. Steady gunfire could be heard for 15 minutes coming from inside the prison, according to a Reuters witness.

Electricity shut down

Police later said they fired only warning shots and regained control about an hour later.

However, several inmates could still be seen at a guard tower in a different part of the prison near the main road about an hour after police said they had retaken control. "Long live Kerobokan's inmates," the prisoners shouted.

National police spokesperson Saud Usman Nasution said: "We are trying to make the inmates go back into their blocks."

Authorities shut down electricity to reduce movement inside the prison and sealed off surrounding streets as water cannon, police trucks and Red Cross vehicles crowded an area normally full of handicraft sellers.

A burnt-out guard block smouldered in the early dawn and armed police patrolled perimeter fences looking down into the prison, Reuters Television footage showed.

Police also displayed what they said were rifles prisoners had snatched from wardens during the riot but which were recaptured later.

Conflict at the prison first started about a week ago when two inmates had a knife-fight, leading to a split in the wider prison population that developed into a bigger fight between two rival groups, Nasution said.

Corby, a former beauty therapist, is serving a 20-year sentence after she was caught with about 4kg of cannabis in a surfboard bag at Denpasar airport in 2004.

The Bali Nine were arrested on Bali in 2005 and found guilty of attempting to smuggle more than 8kg of heroin into Australia. Their sentences have varied from 15 years in jail to death.