A relative of a prisoner speaks with Lebanese policemen outside the detention centre of Baabda courthouse compound on Saturday. AFP
Nearly 70 inmates broke out of a prison in Lebanon on Saturday after smashing their cell doors and attacking prison guards, police said.
Despite tight security, 69 inmates broke out of a detention facility near the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, a police statement said.
Members of the Lebanese police stand next to a damaged car in Hadath. Reuters
According to a police statement, five of the escaped inmates died when a car they stole while fleeing crashed into a tree during an ensuing police chase.
By early afternoon on Saturday, 15 had been recaptured, and another four had handed themselves back in, leaving 44 on the run.
"A manhunt is...underway to arrest the remaining fugitive prisoners," police said in a statement.
Local authorities called on residents to be on alert, with large numbers of security forces deployed searching the area. Prosecutor Ghada Aoun has ordered an immediate investigation in the breakout.
Security forces sealed off the area around the prison and were conducting a manhunt for the remaining prisoners. An investigation into the incident is underway, according to the police statement.
Relatives of the inmates gathered outside the detention centre, where some were awaiting trial. Some asked about the fate of their relatives, while others handed their sons back into custody, according to a local photographer.
A relative of a prisoner reacts outside the detention center of Baabda courthouse compound. AP
They include Joumana Berjawi, whose 22-year-old son escaped after being held for six months on charges of attempted murder — a charge she denies.
"My son was among the escapees, but I brought him back and handed him over to the state," Berjawi said.
The jailbreak comes as detainees across Lebanon have called on parliament to approve a draft general amnesty law, that would see thousands of them freed from coronavirus-hit prisons.
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