- At least 16 convicts were shot dead by prison guards in the Cameroonian port city of Douala during a jail-break attempt on Sunday.
In their attempt to escape from the New Bell prison, prisoners reportedly armed with automatic weapons, opened fire at guards who also responded with fire.
The gunfight also left three prisoners with serious injuries, Cameroon authorities confirmed, calling for more vigilance to be mounted on the country's increasing prison break attempts. The weekend attempt is the third breakouts in recent times.
Built in 1933 for 800 inmates, New Bell prison is overcrowed beyond limits as it is currently harbouring 3,200 people. Human rights organisations said the persistent torture of inmates, poor sanitary conditions and violence have made matters worse in the prison. The colonial administration built New Bell as a "punitive house."
The clash resulted after prisoners who were accommodate in the prison's waiting room, seized the opportunity created by the numerous visitors and attempted to escape. But no inmate succeeded in the attempt, although scores of Cameroonian prisoners evaded during such attempts.
Last year, human rights groups accused Cameroonian army for illegally keeping more than 50 striking prison officers who were denied food and drink and even brutally tortured.
The President of the Cameroon Human Rights House in Douala, Madeleine Afite, confirmed the detention of the warders in a Yaoundé jail. She said the warders were later transported by the military to an "unknown destination." Ms Afite said human rights groups investigators later confirmed that the the guards were held at the cellar of the Secretariat of State to Defence, a secret detention where people easily disappear.
Guards at New Bell prison angered authorities for joining their striking colleagues at Kondengui maximum security prison in Yaoundé in solidarity.
The strike, which threatened security at national prisons and disrupted court proceedings in Douala and Yaoundé, were considered illegal by the government as national legislation and labour ethic bar prison warders from striking.
The strike also created chaotic conditions at Yaoundé maximum security prison where male prisoners were accused of breaking into the female prisoner's section before raping them. Four escaping inmates were shot dead and several others wounded.
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