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October 22, 2009

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Escapees who killed guard may face death

THE three escapees who were captured in a massive manhunt following a weekend prison break are likely to face imminent execution, police in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous said yesterday.

The inmates, Qiao Haiqiang, Dong Jiaji and Li Hongbing, were undergoing questioning yesterday about their escape and their killing of a guard, an unidentified official with the region's Public Security Department told Changjiang Daily. The official did not say what additional capital charges might be filed against the three.

One was already on death row for armed robbery, and the others were serving life sentences for the same crime.

A fourth prisoner, Gao Bo, was killed by police when he resisted arrest on Tuesday about 60 kilometers from the Hohhot No. 2 Prison, from which they escaped on Saturday.

Gao, who had been convicted of manslaughter, was holding a woman surnamed Hou hostage when he was shot. Hou suffered minor cuts on her face and hands in addition to emotional trauma.

Authorities said Gao also injured police officer Guo Yanjun, stabbing him on his leg and hands with a knife.

The three surviving escapees were armed with knives they said they made from materials available in the prison.

During their apprehension, Qiao Haiqiang tried to kill himself with his homemade knife but failed. Qiao, who was arrested after he fell from a four-story building, was in a prison hospital yesterday in serious condition.

The other two were arrested without resistance.

The inmates used a knife to kill prison guard Lan Jianguo and cut off one of his fingers so that they could pass through a fingerprint identification system installed at the prison gates.

Breakout puzzle

They also used Lan's key card to pass through other areas of the prison.

The inmates were obviously familiar with the facility's routine as they waited until Saturday to escape when security was weak during the guards' shift change, said Zhang Youen, deputy director of the Inner Mongolia Public Security Department.

The investigators are still puzzled over how the four were able to pass through a gate equipped with an iris identification system.

Officials also said that a villager surnamed Wang and a shop owner from whom the four bought food and cigarettes were helpful in the arrests and will receive rewards up to 50,000 yuan (US$7,323).

In the wake of the escape, China's Ministry of Justice sent a team to the Hohhot No. 2 Prison and ordered an overhaul of security systems at penitentiaries around the country yesterday.


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