Sunday, September 26, 1999 Published at 20:43 GMT 21:43 UK
Prison riots sweep Turkey
Police sealed off the road to Ulucanlar prison in Ankara
Prisoners across Turkey ran riot on Sunday after a battle between security forces and prisoners at an Ankara jail left at least 10 inmates dead.
Some of the inmates were about to be transferred to other prisons around the country, and the guards had been tipped off that the inmates were planning an escape through a tunnel.
Rioting quickly spread to seven other prisons across the country, where left-wing inmates took at least 90 prison guards hostage, officials said.
At Ulucanlar, the authorities retrieved guns and material used to make bombs, it added. It was not clear if a tunnel was found.
Ankara's Numune hospital said the prisoners had died of gun or stab wounds or from blows to the head and other parts of the body, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported.
Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit called the riots an intolerable challenge to government control.
The inmates at Ulucanlar, who numbered around 50, were members of Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front, and the Turkish Workers Peasants Liberation Army - two of Turkey's most violent underground organizations.
Extreme leftist groups posed a serious challenge to the Turkish state in the late 1970s, taking control of universities and urban districts.
The groups said they were responsible for the killings of several army generals, police officers, government officials and foreigners.
Violent battles with far-right groups led to a military takeover in 1980.
Today, the militants are still capable of staging armed attacks, but are less of a threat to the state.
Inmates from radical political organisations often run their own wards, which they decorate with flags and political posters.
They have long resisted attempts by prison officials to break up the wards by transferring inmates to other prisons.
Senior officials including Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Turk were meeting at the Justice Ministry to discuss the crisis.
Last week, seven people died in a gun battle between rival gangs at a prison in Istanbul.