76 ‘highly dangerous’ inmates escape from Paraguay prison after spending ‘several weeks’ digging a tunnel ‘like something from a movie’
- Many escapees are members of a Brazillian drugs and arms trafficking gang
- Police have deployed their ‘best men’ to capture the Brazilians and Paraguayans
- Armed forces and tanks were spotted surrounding Pedro Juan Caballero city jail
Nearly 80 ‘highly dangerous’ inmates have escaped from a Paraguayan prison after spending several weeks secretly digging an escape tunnel.
The escapees, many of whom are members of a Brazillian drugs and arms trafficking gang, made their getaway through a tunnel from the prison in the border city of Pedro Juan Caballero.
Police spokeswoman Elena Andrada said: ‘Our best men have gone to the border to attempt to recapture the prisoners.’
The number of escapees totalled 76, including 40 Brazilians and 36 Paraguayans, officials said.
Nearly 80 prisoners, many of them members of a ‘highly dangerous’ Brazilian drug and arms trafficking gang, have escaped from a Paraguayan prison near the border through a tunnel (pictured)
Armed forces taking position outside the prison in the border city of Pedro Juan Caballero where the inmates, mainly from Brazil and Paraguay, escaped from
Justice Minister Cecilia Perez issued a sharp condemnation, telling reporters that it must have taken prisoners ‘several weeks’ to build the tunnel and adding, ‘It is evident that the staff knew nothing and did nothing.’
The prison’s warden was dismissed and dozens of guards were arrested.
Most of the escapees belong to a criminal gang known as First Capital Command, one of Brazil’s most powerful criminal enterprises.
Andrada said the burning hulks of five vans used in the escape were found in Ponta Pora, a Brazilian city separated from Pedro Juan Caballero only by an avenue.
Pedro Juan Caballero lies about 300 miles northeast of the capital, Asuncion.
A pair of gloves and a plastic bag (left) were found outside the tunnel, while a bundle of clothes was left strewn inside (right)
Perez voiced ‘a strong suspicion that officials are involved in this corrupt scheme’ and said that the escapees are considered ‘highly dangerous.’
The escapees included men who had taken part in a massacre last June at the San Pedro prison, Andrada said.
She said the inmates had dug a tunnel ‘like we see in the movies, complete with internal lighting.’
Investigators have also found hundreds of sandbags.
Brazil meanwhile moved to tighten security in the border area to help recapture the inmates, Antonio Carlos Videira, Mato Grosso do Sul state’s justice and public safety secretary, told reporters.
Paraguay’s Justice Minister Cecilia Perez (middle) speaks during a press conference in Asuncion after the escape
A police tank guards at Pedro Juan Caballero city jail main entrance in Paraguay after the escape
The Department of Border Operations, the Military Highway Police and other security troops backed by a helicopter have been mobilized, he said, according to Anuncion’s ABC daily.
Brazilian Justice Minister Sergio Moro echoed the offer of support in recapturing the prisoners: ‘If they return to Brazil, they get one-way tickets to federal prison,’ he tweeted.
Paraguay’s Interior Minister Euclides Acevedo said police special ops staff were combing the area of the escape, backed by helicopters.
The Department of Border Operations, the Military Highway Police and other security troops backed by a helicopter have been mobilized (armed forces pictured fanning out around the jail)