A picture shows a view of a street with access to a detention centre under the Adliyeh bridge (L) in Beirut on Sunday, following a dawn prison break. AFP
"At dawn ... 31 detainees managed to escape" from a detention centre in the Adlieh neighbourhood of the capital Beirut, the Internal Security Forces said in a statement on Sunday.
"Immediate orders were given to arrest them and investigations are underway." The detainees broke past a prison window using a saw smuggled into the facility, said a judicial official close to an investigation into the incident.
"The escapees include Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians, among other foreigners," he told AFP on condition of anonymity.
A security source confirmed the escape method, saying the prisoners were likely aided by someone on the outside.
Security forces deploy on a street with access to a detention centre in Beirut. AFP
On Sunday morning, an AFP correspondent saw security forces and army personnel deployed in the Beirut neighbourhood housing the jail.
The Adlieh detention centre was formerly controlled by Lebanon's General Security agency but is now manged by the country's prison authority.
It was notorious for abuses committed against detained Syrian refugees and foreign migrant domestic workers, according to rights groups, including Human Rights Watch.
The prison break came as Lebanon grapples with an unprecedented economic crisis that has seen the value of the Lebanese pound lose more than 90 percent of its value against the dollar on the black market.
Inflation has skyrocketed and public sector salaries have plummeted to record lows, forcing soldiers and other members of security forces to quit en masse to try to eke out an alternative living.
The crisis has also further degraded Lebanon's already-dismal jails, with poor conditions and lack of medical care regularly sparking prion riots and unrest.
It wasn't clear whether the escapade succeeded in winning back the heart of the young woman, also 18, who had broken up with him by phone. The man is being investigated for trespassing and unauthorised contact with prisoners.
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.
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