Police in Honduras clash with relatives of dead prisoners

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Date  17 Feb 2012
Police in Honduras clashed on Wednesday with relatives of the 356 prisoners who died in a fire at a prison in central Honduras, Public Security Minister Pompeyo Bonilla said.

"Please remain calm, remain calm. We will soon distribute the list of those dead, we understand this is a very difficult moment, " Bonilla told to the estimated 2,000 relatives who tried to force their way into the prison to recover the bodies of their loved ones.

The fire on Tuesday night broke out in the prison, which is in the town of Comayagua, about 75 kilometers north of the capital Tegucigalpa.

Bonilla was filmed by local television that has gathered outside the Comayagua prison to follow the events in the normally small and peaceful provincial town. Hector Mejia, spokesman for the Honduran National Police, said the cause that led to the deadly fire late Tuesday evening remained unknown. But a number of prison sources told local media that it was a riot started by competing gang members that provoked the fire as part of plans by some of the inmates to kill to members of a competing gang.

"We know that the relatives are in a lot of pain but they must not be provoked because this will only bring disorder," said Mejia.

To stop the family members from entering the prison police fired into the air, but according to eyewitnesses on the scene this caused confusion and anxiety in the crowd.

Meanwhile, Honduras President Porfirio Lobo ordered a "full investigation" into the circumstances leading to the fire and suspended all authorities at the prison.

In a nationwide address broadcast live on national radio and television, Lobo expressed his condolences and solidarity with the relatives of the victims.

"My heart is with you and I want to express my most profound sentiment of solidarity to the families who are grieving over this inconsolable loss," said Lobo.

Non-governmental organizations have qualified Honduran prisons as massively over-populated with a total of 12,128 prisoners reported sharing facilities build to house 8,230 inmates.

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