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7 Hurt, 5 Guards Held Hostage in Prison Rampage in Australia

January 05, 1988|From Times Wire Services

FREMANTLE, Australia — About 130 inmates armed with knives and bricks went on a rampage in a maximum security prison here Monday, setting fires that damaged 150 cells and taking five guards hostage in a riot that injured at least seven people, officials said.

Scores of police armed with rifles and tear gas surrounded Fremantle Prison, which is just outside Perth, officials said, adding that the guards were being held in the jail's exercise yard.

Police were conducting negotiations on a set of undisclosed demands to end the siege, they said.

Other Inmates Led Away

Earlier, prison officials launched a baton charge against a group of 360 prisoners in another part of the complex who had not taken part in the riot to keep them away from the jail walls. Some of those prisoners were seen being led out of the fortress-like facility to be housed in other jails.

The inmates holding the hostages issued a series of demands, one of them to air their grievances to the news media. The other demands were not disclosed.

Unconfirmed reports said inmates were angry about conditions at the Australian jail. About 120 inmates staged a sit-in at the exercise yard last week.

Prison officials said the rioting erupted late Monday afternoon when about 200 prisoners, some of them armed with knives, bricks, stones and other makeshift weapons, set fire to the timber roof of the north cellblock.

The blaze spread rapidly and prisoners took advantage of the confusion to rampage through the jail complex, taking the guards hostage and forcing others to retreat. It took about 80 firefighters three hours to bring the blaze under control.

The officials said the rioting was the worst in the history of the prison, which was built in 1856 by the last wave of convicts brought to the country from England.

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