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Six Dead, 37 Hurt in Prison Battle

February 4, 1998

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) _ A fight between rival prison gangs armed with homemade grenades, firearms and knives left at least six inmates dead and 37 injured Wednesday in an overcrowded prison in northeastern Colombia.

A prison guard was also injured at the Modelo prison in Cucuta, 250 miles from Bogota. The rioting broke out when 60 inmates in one cellblock tried to move into another area where there was more space, prison officials said.

At least four of the inmates who provoked the riot were killed when a homemade grenade exploded, prison director Maj. Carlos Escobar told the Radionet radio network. He said the homemade grenades were made from gunpowder smuggled into the prison.

A fifth inmate died of stabbing wounds, while the cause of death of the sixth inmate was not immediately known. Escobar said the injured had shrapnel wounds from the grenade explosions and some had minor knife wounds.

Escobar said the inmates were serving sentences of up to 40 years for various crimes. He said the situation was under control Wednesday afternoon, with police and soldiers ringing the prison.

Inmates commonly smuggle weapons into Colombia’s jails, usually by paying off guards.

National prison officials said the prison, build for 750 inmates, had 1,129 inmates. Colombia’s 168 prisons, built for 29,000 inmates, currently house 43,000, the Justice Ministry says.

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