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October 21, 2009

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Cops kill 1 escapee, capture 3 others who fled Hohhot prison

POLICE in northern China yesterday shot and killed one of the four prison escapees who murdered a guard during their weekend breakout and arrested the other three, wrapping up a 67-hour nationwide manhunt.

Police in Hohhot in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region shot prisoner Gao Bo when he resisted arrest after they caught him and his accomplices in Helin County, about 60 kilometers from the city's No. 2 Prison, which they escaped from on Saturday.

The other inmates were identified as Qiao Haiqiang, Dong Jiaji, and Li Hongbin. They were caught in an area that borders Shanxi Province, and police suspected they might have been trying to flee into the province on a stolen tractor, which turned over during the chase, according to Inner Mongolia Daily Online.

One police officer was injured during the confrontation. A hostage held by the gang was also hurt, China Central Television reported yesterday. Details on their conditions were not revealed.

Gao had been found guilty of manslaughter while the other three were convicted of armed robbery. Two were on death row and two were serving life sentences.

The four were spotted by a Helin resident surnamed Wang. He told officers that a man with a shaved head knocked at his door and asked for drinking water at around 4:50am yesterday.

Wang said he had learned about the prison break from media reports and grew suspicious after he heard the man speaking with a Shanxi accent, which was mentioned in the wanted posters.

After dawn, Wang found four pairs of footprints at his door heading into a nearby forest and called police.

Authorities discovered clothes and food the four had abandoned in the woods and deployed more than 600 heavily armed officers and a plane to search for the escapees.

The incident raised questions about the prison's security measures.

The four escapees, aged 21 to 28, were sorting ice cream sticks when they cornered prison guard Lan Jianguo and stabbed him to death with a knife used to cut paper.

One of the four put on Lan's uniform and the others donned street clothes.

Authorities are still trying to learn how the men gained access to the knife and civilian clothes as prisoners are not allowed to have personal belongings, according to China News Service.

A prison worker told the media that it is necessary to pass through four gates to enter or exit the prison.

The inmates had to walk more than 1 kilometer from where they worked to the prison gates, and they were not spotted by any guard during the whole process.

They even followed another guard to the prison gate, knocking him out with a blunt object.

A prison official said the men might have somehow squeezed through a door that can be opened only by a security device that identifies a guard's iris, according to the Southern Metropolis Daily.

After the men escaped, they dragged a taxi driver out of his cab and drove away on their own, first robbing a female passenger of 700 yuan (US$103). The money enabled them to hire another cab when the stolen one ran out of gas.

The abandoned taxi was recovered shortly after the manhunt began along a ring road almost 10 kilometers from the prison.


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