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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 December 2005, 21:43 GMT
Deal frees Brazil prison hostages
Inmates of the Urso Branco prison sit on one of the facility's water towers as a policeman looks on
Prisoners took to the roof to taunt police officers, reports say
Inmates at a jail in Brazil have freed more than 200 people they had held hostage for four days after officials agreed to one of their key demands.

No one had been killed or injured during the crisis at Urso Branco prison in Rondonia state, police said.

Authorities had earlier agreed to inmates' calls for a gang leader, who had been transferred to another facility, to be returned to the jail.

A 2004 uprising at Urso Branco prison ended with the death of 14 prisoners.

The gang leader whose transfer to another jail provoked the latest uprising has been accused of organising the earlier revolt.

Ednildo de Souza, who is serving a 30-year sentence for armed robbery and murder, escaped from Urso Branco in November and was recaptured and moved to another prison last week.

Visiting relatives

"The inmates have released the hostages and no-one was hurt," the head of Rondonia state's public safety department, Renato Eduardo de Souza told the Associated Press news agency.

"No one was killed," he said.

The prisoners' earlier claim that they had killed 16 of their number had been "a bluff", he said.

More than 1,000 prisoners are believed to have taken part in the uprising.

The hostages were relatives of the inmates who had been visiting them on Christmas Day.

The relatives sometimes stay willingly because they think their presence will reduce the chances of police storming the jail, correspondents say.

At the height of the hostage crisis, some 150 heavily-armed police had surrounded prison in the Amazonian state of Rondonia.

Some of the prisoners camped out on the roofs of the jail, from where they reportedly taunted the heavily-armed police.

Like many Brazilian jails, Urso Branco prison is badly overcrowded. It was designed to hold 350 inmates, but currently contains more than 1,000.

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