Over 20 prisoners were feared killed and many others injured after guards fired at inmates who were trying to flee fire that gutted the Qilinto maximum-security prison on Saturday night.
The intensive gunfire that ensued have created a tense situation among local residents in the area.
According to reports that are coming out of the capital, 22 bodies were taken to Paulos hospital. The death toll is expected to rise sharply after reports of 13 deaths at Tor Hailoch Hospital and 14 at Police Hospital have beenreported.
Under the Federal Prison Administration, Qilinto hosts the country’s high profile political prisoners including senior leaders of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC).
The fate of these political and religious prisoners, however, remains unknown. There is heavy presence of security forces from the federal police around the scene and the prison remains cordoned off to public.
State media put the toll as one person dead, and six others injured. None of the victims have been identified by their names though.
Distressed families of prisoners are awaiting to hear the fate of their loved ones.
The TPLF dominated regime has a history of setting prisons on fire in order to use the chaos to eliminate critical political figures. During the aftermath of the 2005 election, the regime killed 163 prisoners at Kaliti prison using a riot as a pretext.
OFC deputy leader Mulatu Gemechu told the VOA Amharic program that his party is anxiously awaiting to hear the fate of its leader such as Bekele Gerba and other party members.
“We are seriously worried about the fate of our leaders, members and supporters of our party,” said Gemechu.
He said the Qilinto fire incident was reminiscent of the Ambo Prison and Gonder Prison tragedies. In both cases, prisoners who were trying to save themselves by fleeing the inferno were gunned down by security guards.
According to Addis Fortune sources, the federal police unit has taken over security of the Qilinto prison from Federal Prison Administration.