18 PKK members escape from prison via tunnel in eastern Turkey
BİNGÖL - Doğan News Agency
DHA PhotoSome 18 prisoners who were reportedly members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) escaped from a prison in the eastern province of Bingöl via a tunnel earlier this morning.
Police and gendarmerie forces have launched an operation to apprehend the escaped inmates, warning security units in neighboring provinces.
Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, who spoke to the press in front of the prison where he went to make immediate examinations, said the escape was only discovered during a head count session in the morning.
“We learned that 18 inmates, 14 of which were arrested and four convicted, have escaped,” he said, adding the questions and potential omissions regarding the incident would become clearer following an investigation.
A ministry representative has also departed for Bingöl to join the probe and issue a press statement on the matter thereafter.
Around 18 convicts and detainees who were imprisoned for “membership in a terrorist organization and aiding and abetting it,” managed to flee through the tunnel that they themselves had dug, Bingöl Gov. İbrahim Taşyapan said.
PKK member inmates emerged from the 80-meter long tunnel from a waste-water canal 10 meters away from the outer walls of the prison and lost their tracks.
The authorities said the fugitives might have gotten help from somebody waiting outside the tunnel to change their clothes. Therefore, recent visitors of the escaped convicts and detainees will also be watched closely, they said.
The authorities believe the PKK member fugitives have been burrowing through the tunnel for around a year.
The police officers have so far been unable to find the soil and diggers or shovels that they believed were used in the escape. Security forces are also investigating the possibility of other prisoners having helped.
While police helicopters are currently searching for the fugitives above rural areas, security units are controlling all entries and exits at highway check points.
The 325-inmate penitentiary is located 12 kilometers from the city center. One warden, three deputy wardens and 103 prison officers and protection officers are employed at the prison.
Some of the runaway prisoners were put in jail for severe charges of execution of bloody attacks that killed many in southeastern provinces.
One of the refugees, D.Y. was seized during a military operation where nine PKK members were shot to death in Bingöl last year. R.B. was charged with killing of five public officers and wounding 25 in 2008 with a bomb blast stroked a bus carrying police academy officers in Diyarbakır.
Another runaway, H.B., was known as the bomber of PKK who was trained on bombs, sabotage and assasination in one of PKK’s northern Iraqi camps. He was accused of carrying out killing of two soldiers and wounding of five of them in Lice district of Diyarbakır and another one in Silvan district where a soldier was killed and seven were wounded.
O.A., alleged offender of another 2008 bomb attack into a military service vehicle that slayed seven, six of which were students training at the private teaching institution where the bomb exploded in front of, is reportedly among the jail breakers.
HISTORICAL PRISON BREAKS IN TURKEY
• Three members of the outlawed Turkish People’s Liberation Party-Front (THKP-C), including one of the leading figures of Turkish left, Mahir Çayan, and two members of the People’s Liberation Army of Turkey (THKO), fled from Istanbul’s Maltepe prison through a tunnel in 1971.
• An escape attempt from Adana penitentiary in 1980 ended bloodily, after one inmate died of an electric shock while digging a tunnel and four were killed in a clash with police after emerging from tunnel.
• In 1988, 29 inmates used 60-meter tunnel to escape from Istanbul’s Metris prison.
• 18 prisoners in the Central Anatolian province of Kırşehir built a 118-meter tunnel over the course of five-and-a-half months and escaped in 1988.