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article imageBrazil hunts escaped inmates after bloody prison riot

By AFP     Jan 3, 2017 in World

Brazilian police staged a massive manhunt Tuesday for scores of convicts who escaped during a prison riot that ended with 56 inmates killed by their rivals, many of them beheaded.

In all, 184 inmates escaped from two prisons in Amazonas state as a local drug gang took gruesome revenge on members of a rival gang, authorities said.

Of those, 130 remain at large and 54 have been recaptured, according to the latest count.

Police set up roadblocks in the area and deployed teams to track down the remaining convicts.

"We hope to have caught nearly all the prisoners by the end of the week," the state security minister Sergio Fontes told reporters.

- Escape tunnels -

Brazil prison riot
Brazil prison riot
Paz PIZARRO, Sabrina BLANCHARD, Simon MALFATTO, AFP

The initial riot at the Anisio Jobim Penitentiary Complex in the state capital, Manaus, was followed by uprisings at two other prisons.

Authorities swiftly brought them under control in a crack-down -- but not before 72 had escaped from the nearby Antonio Trindade Penal Institute.

They joined the 112 who had already escaped through a network of tunnels discovered at the Anisio Jobim prison.

Besides the 56 inmates killed at Anisio Jobim, four were killed in fighting between prisoners at the Puraquequara Penitentiary Unit, also in Amazonas state.

- Desperate relatives -

Prisoners' desperate relatives gathered outside a forensic building where experts were working to identify the bodies on Tuesday.

Relatives of inmates ask for information at the main gate of the Anisio Jobim Penitentiary Complex a...
Relatives of inmates ask for information at the main gate of the Anisio Jobim Penitentiary Complex after a riot on January 2, 2017
Marcio SILVA, AFP

"I want news of my son, whether he is alive or dead. They are not telling me anything," one of them, Ana Regina, 47, told AFP.

"I don't know where he is or whether he fled."

Fontes said the authorities would probably start handing over the bodies of the dead to their relatives on Tuesday.

- 'Watch out single ladies' -

Despite the massive manhunt, one alleged escapee appeared to mock the authorities on Facebook.

The man, Brayan Bremer, posted pictures of himself and other purported escapees giving the thumbs-up sign and feasting on fruit against a backdrop of thick vegetation.

"I'm coming, watch out single ladies," said one post.

Officials have not confirmed the account belongs to an escaped prisoner.

But it went viral in Brazil, getting 14,000 "likes" on Facebook and inspiring instant memes of the prisoner's face plastered on posters for famous jailbreak movies like "The Shawshank Redemption" and TV series "Prison Break."

- 'My son was cut to pieces' -

The riot was no laughing matter, though.

Authorities described a horrifying scene of decapitated and brutalized bodies strewn around the prison when they regained control Monday morning after a riot that raged through the night.

Vans of the Legal Medicine Institute carrying bodies of inmates killed during a riot  leave the Anis...
Vans of the Legal Medicine Institute carrying bodies of inmates killed during a riot, leave the Anisio Jobim Penitentiary Complex (Compaj) in Manaus, Brazil, on January 2, 2017
Jair Araujo, AFP

Bloodied and burned bodies were stacked in a concrete prison yard and piled in carts, said an AFP photographer at the scene.

"My son and others were cut into pieces. They ended up without heads," said one of the weeping relatives outside the forensic building, Raimundo Castro Leal.

"I want them to identify him quickly and release him."

The prisoners took 12 guards hostage, who were later freed.

Prison authorities said they had transferred 130 gang members from various jails to a different facility after they received death threats.

The federal government said it was releasing funds to create 20,000 new places in Brazil's overcrowded jails.

- Gangland revenge -

Authorities blamed the riot on fighting between the Family of the North (FDN), a powerful local gang, and rivals from the First Capital Command (PCC), one of Brazil's largest gangs.

The riot was the deadliest in more than a decade in Brazil's underfunded and overcrowded jails.

Aerial view of the Penitentiary Complex Anisio Jobim located near Manaus  Amazonia state  Brazil
Aerial view of the Penitentiary Complex Anisio Jobim located near Manaus, Amazonia state, Brazil
, SESIP/AFP/File

In October, prison riots triggered by fighting between rival gangs killed 33 people.

And in 1992, a riot in Sao Paulo's Carandiru prison left 111 people dead.

Brazil's justice ministry said in a 2014 report that the country's prisons need 50 percent more capacity to handle the current number of inmates: 622,000.

That is the world's fourth-largest prison population after the US, China and Russia, according to the report.

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