Hundreds of inmates, including several convicted terrorists, escaped from Tanjung Gusta Penitentiary in Medan, North Sumatra on Thursday night by storming a main gate and setting some of the institution’s offices ablaze.
“We are still trying to determine the exact number of prisoners who broke out, though we managed to arrest 55 prisoners shortly after they escaped to Belawan,” Comr. Gen. Sutarman, the National Police’s chief of detectives, said on Friday.
Police estimate that at least 200 prisoners escaped Thursday evening, including 15 terror convicts, some of whom were involved in an armed 2010 bank heist at a CIMB Niaga branch in Medan that left one person dead.
The inmates managed to break free by knocking down one of the walls of the penitentiary.
Sutarman said police personnel from North Sumatra, West Sumatra, Aceh and Jambi have been deployed to Medan to search for the missing prisoners and guard Tanjung Gusta.
A police officer who wished to remain anonymous said that five people were found dead following the riot, including two wardens.
“We are still trying to relocate the victims, but conditions are still very chaotic,” the officer said.
Sutarman said, however, said that the National Police has not received any reports regarding the fatalaties.
“The information is still unclear, and I cannot confirm anything at the moment,” he said.
A member of Indonesian anti-terror squad Densus 88 told the Jakarta Globe that the police were on high alert due to the fact that some of the escapees are convicted terrorists.
“We are on the highest alert [right now],” the source said.
National Police spokesman Brig.Gen. Boy Rafli Amar said the incident occurred early Thursday morning and was sparked by a prison-wide blackout. There was also no running water at the time.
As of Friday morning, the situation at Tanjung Gusta is still in disarray according to some prison personnel.
“Last night, prisoners threw rocks at us from inside the building,” an officer said.
Before the prison break, 2,599 prisoners were held at the detention center, including 22 terror convicts.