ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday September 23, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 17

Prisons chief says transfer thwarted tunnel escape

By Madhushala Senaratne

Some 64 LTTE cadres, including hardcore members, were metres away from escape from the Kalutara high security prison, if they had not been transferred to the Welikada prison a year ago, the Prisons chief said yesterday. The revelations came as inquiries got underway yesterday to probe how the LTTE prisoners dug a tunnel extending more than 200 metres (600 ft) using improvised devices from their cell close to the Kaluganga.

Prisons Commissioner General Vajira Wijegunawardana said one of the aspects to be probed would be how they dug the tunnel without the knowledge of prison officials and the failure to detect it earlier. The discovery was made following a confession to the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) by one of the LTTE suspects, according to police sources.

More than 60 LTTE suspects had been in custody in Kalutara prison since 2004 until they were transferred to the Welikada prison this year, Rtrd Major General Wijegunawardana said.

“When I took over duties as Commission General in May last year I kept a close watch over these detainees. I was suspicious of their behaviour and it was for this reason that I decided to transfer them to Welikada,” he said.“The detainees had vehemently opposed the transfer and even launched a hunger strike demanding their immediate transfer to Kalutara,” he said.

“The starting point of the tunnel was located just beneath an abandoned toilet pit inside one of the cells, from which these detainees would have planned to escape probably during night, although work on the tunnel would have been done during the day,” he said adding that the work on the tunnel was nearly complete.

The Prisons Chief yesterday visited the scene as investigations were in progress. The Sunday Times photographer Berty Mendis who walked through the tunnel said a person could crouch and walk through without much difficulty.

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