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Prisoners flee East Timor prison after Sunday mass

Agence France Presse - November 3, 2013

Two dozen inmates escaped from an East Timor prison on Sunday by beating up wardens and fleeing through the main gate as they returned to their cells after mass, an official said.

The escapees, including two militants who fought against the nation's independence from Indonesia, had been among more than 350 prisoners at morning worship at a hall in the prison. East Timor is as majority-Catholic nation.

Other inmates who fled were serving time for crimes including murder, rape and theft. "Twenty-four inmates escaped. They beat up two wardens and ran out through the main entrance," said Joao Domingos, chief of the Becora prison in Dili, the capital.

Police had recaptured 13 inmates and were looking for the others, he said, adding the former anti-independence fighters were among those still on the loose.

Domingos blamed the breakout from the prison on a lack of guards and equipment such as walkie-talkies and batons. Almost 60 inmates escaped from the same prison in 2006.

Indonesia's brutal 24-year occupation of East Timor, Asia's youngest nation, ended in 1999 with a UN-administered referendum.

Both the run-up to the vote, in which the Timorese voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence, and its aftermath were marked by a campaign of violence by pro-Indonesian militias.

Following three years of UN administration, East Timor gained independence in 2002 but remains impoverished.