Papua New Guinea mass jailbreak: Seventeen prisoners shot dead, 57 still on the run

Sydney: Seventeen prisoners have been shot dead after a mass breakout at a jail in Papua New Guinea, reports said on Monday, with 57 still on the run.

Papua New Guinea military police patrol the perimeter as PNG Governor-General Michael Ogio swears in PNG Prime Minister Michael Somare's cabinet and ministers during a ceremony at Government House in Port Moresby on December 14, 2011. Michael Somare, age 75, was reinstated as the Pacific island nation's leader when the Supreme Court ruled the election of Peter O'Neill to the post by fellow lawmakers in August was unconstitutional. AFP PHOTO / Ness KERTON / AFP PHOTO / Ness Kerton

Papua New Guinea military police. AFP file image

Inmates from the Buimo jail in the Pacific nation's second largest city Lae made a dash for freedom after breaking out of their compound on Friday, with prison warders opening fire.

The PNG Post-Courier and The National newspapers both cited local police as confirming 17 were killed, three were caught and 57 were still at large.

"These are undesirable people and will be a threat to the community," Lae police metropolitan commander chief superintendent Anthony Wagambie Jr said of the escapees, warning the public to be vigilant.

"The majority of those who escaped were arrested for serious crimes and were in custody awaiting trial. A good number were arrested by police last year for mainly armed robberies, car thefts, break and enter and stealing," he said.

It is the same prison where police shot dead 12 inmates during a jailbreak last year. Crime and lawlessness in Papua New Guinea, a sprawling nation where many still live traditional and subsistence lives in remote areas, are rampant.

Wagambie urged family members and associates of the escapees not to harbour them. "I am warning them that they will be caught. They must do what is good for them and surrender," he said.

Updated Date: May 15, 2017 12:36 PM

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