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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Inmates and Guards Battle in Tbilisi, At Least 9 Killed

ReutersSpecial forces leaving a prison where a riot broke out Monday in Tbilisi.
TBILISI, Georgia -- Police stormed a prison in the Georgian capital on Monday after inmates rioted in a purported escape attempt, sparking a gun battle that left two guards and seven inmates dead, Georgia's Justice Ministry said.

At least 10 guards were wounded in two hours of shooting at the Ortochala prison in Tbilisi, home to some 4,000 inmates, and several buildings in the compound were burned, Justice Minister Georgy Kavtaradze said.

Officials were not sure how the inmates got weapons but believe they were smuggled in. Kavtaradze said the riot was planned by several leaders in the jail as part of a carefully orchestrated escape attempt.

Ministry spokeswoman Tamar Mchedlishvili said seven inmates were killed and 16 wounded.

She said the revolt began around 2:30 a.m. when prisoners broke down the doors of their cells and the bars on their windows.

"Then they set sheets and blankets on fire and threw them down on the special forces soldiers," she said.

Mchedlishvili said the age and poor condition of the prison made it easier for the prisoners to get out of control quickly.

Kavtaradze said authorities acted as they would have "in any civilized country."

"I want to underline that this morning our capital was under a real threat," he said.

Hundreds of relatives of inmates gathered outside the prison, saying they had received cell phone calls asking for help and reporting that many had been killed.