Liberia: Mass jailbreak in Zwedru near Ivorian border

The hands of inmates seen through prison bars in Liberia (Archive shot) Most of Liberia's jails are notoriously overcrowded

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A group of prisoners has escaped from a jail in Liberia's south-eastern city of Zwedru.

State-run radio and regional authorities say more than 60 inmates escaped, but police spokesman George Bardue put the number at 21.

He said the escapees, who have been described as well armed, had been convicted of armed robbery and other capital offences.

A manhunt is under way in the forested area that borders Ivory Coast, he said.

The region hosts tens of thousands of refugees who fled violence in Ivory Coast following elections in 2010.

Attacks on Ivory Coast have reportedly been launched from neighbouring Liberia in recent months.

Map
Gold mine alert

Mr Bardue said everything was being done to recapture the inmates who escaped on Wednesday from the maximum security facility in Zwedru, the capital of Grand Gedeh county.

Grand Gedeh administrator Peter Solo told state-run Liberian Broadcasting System radio that more than 60 men had escaped, some of whom were "high-profile convicts".

He said gold-mining areas in particular had been put on alert.

The BBC's Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia says that like many parts of rural Liberia, Grand Gedeh county is currently cut off from the capital because of bad roads during the rainy season.

Prisons in the West African nation are congested mainly because of delays in taking suspects to court, he says.

In June, the Liberian government extradited a group of Ivorians from Zwedru prison, who were accused of trying to launch cross-border raids on Ivory Coast in support of former President Laurent Gbagbo, who is facing war crimes charges in The Hague.

He lost elections in November 2010 but refused to leave power, leading to a six-month crisis in which some 3,000 people were killed.

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