By Amira Ahmed, Safaa Abdoun and Tamim Elyan
CAIRO: Unspecified numbers of escaped prison inmates have reportedly reached towns and villages on the sixth day of protests against the regime in Egypt, according to state-owned and independent press and residents.
Reports on Sunday afternoon said that 21 prison guards succeeded in escaping from Tora prison Sunday were arrested and detained by local residents and army units in the area.
Tora prisons complex, lying between the Autostrade road and Nile Corniche, is one of the most prominent and heavily guarded prisons in Egypt. It comprises seven different detention centers housing 1,600 prisoner including political prisoners.
Two citizens, including a young girl, were shot dead in the balconies of their homes during random shootouts by police with live bullets in Ahmed Zaki street in Maadi Friday night.
A Daily News Egypt reporter living in Maadi overlooking the north side of Tora Prison says he heard heavy gunfire starting 3 pm on Saturday and lasted well through the night and up until around 10 am. At various times smoke could be seen rising from inside the prison, but later subsided. At times of intensive gunfire, several flares could be seen fired in the sky.
Rumors that the prisoners had escaped were later denied by residents manning the streets of Degla, Maadi, who put up barricades in front of the only entrance to the area from the Tora side.
At first there was no army presence, but army vehicles arrived late at night and crossed Tora Bridge heading to the Maadi Corniche. Hundreds of male residents of the area spent the night on the streets with sticks, chains, knives and some were armed. They managed to catch four thugs, stopping them from entering Degla and eventually handed them over to the army.
By morning, heavy gunfire could still be heard coming from the prison and several army vehicles were manning the side of Tora Bridge heading towards the Autostrad as well as at least three on the Corniche side. Two army personnel were also present with the residents of the Degla area checking cars coming in and out.
At least 10 tanks were seen lining the Maadi Corniche itself, setting up barricades at the main entrances. At noon, a Daily News Egypt reporter driving through saw the army arresting a microbus full of around 10 thugs. No visible damage could be seen on the buildings lining the Corniche, including a major supermarket, car dealerships, and several banks.
Driving through Bahr El-Azam Street, the Giza Police Station was burned as well as several police trucks and some trees.
In Abu Za’abal prison, East of Cairo, a political prisoner told the BBC that 120 inmates have taken control of one sector of the jail.
Security officials have reported finding tens of dead bodies on the road leading to Abu Za’abal prison.
Speaking by mobile phone, Mohamed Mahmoud Sami, who has been incarcerated for 17 years, said: “Security forces are trying to storm in, but we can see that the soldiers are reluctant to fire at us, as if they want to side with the rebelling people of Egypt.”
Fayza, a resident of El-Nubeira near Abu Za’abal prison, called in on terrestrial television to say that residents have caught numerous inmates who escaped the prison and are holding them in custody.
“We have caught some inmates but we don’t know who to hand them over to, the people of the neighborhood are keeping them at the Nubeira Police Station with help from the few officers still there,” she said.
There were other inmates who got away from them and went out on the Agricultural Road, she added.
An official told AFP that eight prisoners were killed during rioting at the prison. BBC Arabic reported Sunday afternoon that 14 people were killed.
In a statement to terrestrial television, the Governor of Fayoum, Galal Mustafa Said, said that the security forces have arrested many inmates who escaped from the Ministry of Interior’s prisons, without giving specific figures.
However, a state-owned English television channel, Nile TV, said Sunday that roughly 1,000 inmates escaped from a prison in Fayoum, southwest of Cairo, and several officials were killed as the inmates escaped, without giving a specific figure.
But satellite news channel Al-Arabiya gave unconfirmed figures varying between 700 and 5,000 inmates have escaped.
According to AFP, several thousand inmates overwhelmed guards at Wadi Natrun prison north of Cairo during the night. The prison holds many Islamist political prisoners who spilled out into nearby towns and villages.
A resident of nearby Sadat City told Daily News Egypt that the escaped prisoners were peacefully asking for food and clothes. She said there was no violence.