Swedes escape from Haitian prison drama

Swedes escape from Haitian prison drama
Six Swedes and an American successfully escaped from Haiti's largest prison after they were taken hostage when prisoners staged a revolt on Sunday.

The prisoners rushed towards the exit with the Swedes acting as human shields as shots rang out around them.

When Haitian police, with the help of the United Nations, made a successful breakthrough into the prison, the hostages were released and ran out of the prison, Sara Kvarnström, press secretary at the National Police Board (Rikspolisstyrelsen) told news agency TT.

The Swedes were brought to the safety in the UN mission. None received serious injuries. Three prisoners were killed when they tried to flee and were trampled to death during the escape attempt, US media reported.

The Swedish group included four police officers, a forensic expert and a corrections officer. An American corrections officer was also taken hostage. Three of the Swedish police are part of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

The Swedes were visiting Haiti’s largest prison, the National Prison in Port-au-Prince, which houses 1,500 inmates. At 10.30am local time, they were surrounded by prisoners who had rushed to the prison gate despite the police presence outside.

Shots rang out and the prisoners used the Swedes as human shields when they tried to escape.

One of the Swedes was hit by a lead shot in the chest, but was not badly injured. The others received minor injuries such as scratches and welts. They managed to protect themselves from bullets and when the police broke in, they fled. The drama lasted about 45 minutes.

Sweden is helping to strengthen the Haitian judicial system as part of reconstruction efforts following January’s devastating earthquake.

Three experts from the police and four from the Swedish Prison and Probation Service (Kriminalvården) are in Haiti for the mission.

The deputy head of the UN police force in Haiti, comprising about 2,200 police officers, is Fredrik Bjerkeborn, on leave from the Skåne police.

The country’s judicial system was hit hard by the catastrophic earthquake and associated aftershocks that struck Haiti in January. Thousands of prisoners escaped when the prison was destroyed by the magnitude 7.0 earthquake.

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