Four prisoners who reportedly took guns from guards inside a Somali jail were killed during an intense shootout with security forces on Monday, officers said.
There were conflicting reports of how the prisoners, all said to be members of the Al-Shabaab jihadist group, managed to get their hands on the weapons in capital Mogadishu’s central prison.
“There was heavy shooting inside the prison where some inmates managed to get hold of firearms and started shooting the guards,” security officer Abdi Dhere told AFP.
“The security forces cordoned off the building and killed four prisoners who were involved in the shooting,” he added.
“It is not clear how the prisoners ended up having access to guns.”
Another security source said one of the prisoners snatched a rifle from a guard.
A police officer speaking on condition of anonymity said all the inmates were members of the Al Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab, some of them serving life sentences.
“Four of them were killed and two others wounded during the shooting with the security forces,” the officer said.
The authorities did not say whether any guards or security forces were harmed during the shootout.
Information ministry spokesman Ismael Mukhtar Omar said the situation in the prison was now back to normal.
“All those inmates who were involved in the fighting were killed,” he said in a statement.
Witnesses said that as well as heavy gunfire, there were also grenade explosions inside the prison after the special forces were deployed.
Somalia plunged into chaos after the 1991 overthrow of president Siad Barre’s military regime, leading to years of clan warfare followed by the rise of Al-Shabaab which once controlled large parts of the country and Mogadishu.
Al-Shabaab were driven out of the capital in 2011, but has continued to wage war against the government, carrying out regular attacks.