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Lebanon: Five prisoners die as dozens escape in jail break

At least 69 prisoners escaped Baabda prison, east of Beirut, on Saturday; only 15 have been arrested, according to state media
Lebanese security forces outside the Palace of Justice in Baabda after the prison break on 21 November (Reuters)

Five Lebanese prisoners died when their car crashed into a tree during a dramatic jailbreak at dawn on Saturday, according to local media.

At least 69 prisoners escaped in different directions after breaking down doors at Baabda prison, east of Beirut, the state National News Agency reported. 

A group of prisoners who stole a taxi in Hadath crashed while being chased by authorities. 

Translation: "A video documenting the moment of the escape of prisoners from Baabda prison. They collided with a tree on the side of the road, killing a number of them and some escaped."

The state new agency reported that 15 escapees have so far been arrested in the vicinity of the prison, and a search is continuing for the rest. 

It added that the bodies of three of the escapees were taken to Baabda Governmental Hospital, and two to Al-Hayat Hospital.

The authorities issued a warning to locals in the Hadath area not to open doors to anyone they do not know. 

Translation: "A major escape operation from Baabda prison: their number was 69; they broke doors, exited cells and imprisoned the security personnel in charge of protecting the Palace of Justice and its prison. Eight were arrested and five were killed in a traffic accident while the security forces are pursuing the fugitives."

The jail break followed warnings from Amnesty International of deteriorating conditions in Lebanese prisons, where there have been riots and protests by prisoners and their families over fears about the spread of Covid-19. 

Lebanese authorities said last week that 535 cases of Covid-19 had been detected at the large Roumieh prison in Beirut from 1,706 tests.