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3 die, guards held hostage in Argentine prison
Updated: 2005-02-11 11:27

Rioting swept through a penitentiary housing 2,000 prisoners in central Argentina late Thursday, leaving at least three inmates dead and two dozen guards hostage, authorities said.

Television footage showed rampaging inmates on the prison's roof wielding homemade knives while holding hostages, including one man in a bloodied shirt. Shot rang out as the rioters cast rocks down at police sheltering behind plastic shields.

Police backed by national guardsmen ringed the maximum-security penitentiary, bidding to regain control as the riots continued into the night.

Gustavo Vidal Lascano, attorney general of Cordoba province, said three inmates were killed while trying to escape. Television showed images of other inmates who had reportedly been captured while trying to flee.

Vidal also said the prison warden was reported among the hostages and that inmates had seized guns kept in a prison storage room.

Local reports said the violence erupted over inmate demands for better visitation rights and improved living conditions in the San Martin prison, located on the outskirts of the provincial capital of Cordoba, about 450 miles northwest of Buenos Aires.

A spokesman for Cordoba's provincial government, Mario Bartolacci, said the situation remained tense dring the night. He said local authorities had called for the national guard and militarized border police to help regain control of the penitentiary.

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