January 5, 2006

Honduras prison clash kills 13 inmates

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (Reuters) - A gun battle between
inmates at a prison in Honduras left 13 prisoners deadon
Thursday, the latest lethal incident in the Central American
country's notorious penal system, an official said.

One person was also wounded by gunfire in the clash at a
high-security wing of a national penitentiary 12 miles north of
the capital city, national prison chief Jaime Banegas told

The clash, which left corpses littered in a stairwell, a
prison cell and a courtyard, was brought under control and the
jail put under the guard of soldiers and elite police.

The prison is home to more than 3,000 inmates, although it
was designed to hold only 1,500, another prison official told

In May 2004, a fire swept through a jail in the lowland
Honduran city of San Pedro Sula, killing more than 100 inmates,
all of them members of the Mara Salvatrucha street gang that
has been targeted in a controversial government crackdown.

Survivors of the blaze said guards had prevented prisoners
from getting out of their smoke-filled cells, and family
members said they suspected it was no accident.

Inmates involved in Thursday's violence were not gang
members, officials said. Youth gangs called "maras" are behind
a wave of killings, rapes and other violence in Honduras.

Scores of inmates, including gang members, died in April
2003 in a jail riot in the port city of La Ceiba.

The head of that prison was later sentenced to 19 years in
prison for fueling the riot.