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Trinidad's Capital Sent Into a Tailspin as Three Inmates Shoot Their Way Out of Prison

Port of Spain, Trinidad's capital city. Photo by Mariordo (Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz)CC BY-SA 3.0

Port of Spain, Trinidad's capital city. Photo by Mariordo (Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz)CC BY-SA 3.0

The Friday afternoon bustle of downtown Port of Spain was today transformed into something much more befitting an action movie set, as three prisoners reportedly shot their way out of the Royal Jail, a facility located on Frederick Street near the heart of Trinidad's capital.

Reports are still murky, but the escapees, Allan “Scanny” MartinHassan Atwell and Christopher Selby, were reportedly able to flee the prison when the gates were opened to allow an official vehicle to enter. A getaway car was either waiting or acquired and in the ensuing shootout between the prisoners and the protective services Martin was shot dead, and one police officer, Sherman Maynard, was shot and injured. Maynard subsequently died on the operating table at the nearby Port of Spain General Hospital. Atwell and Selby are said to be still on the run.

Martin was one of ten suspects to stand trial for the murder of businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Coolman. He is also reported to be a member of the Jamaat al Muslimeen, the organisation behind the failed coup attempt in 1990. The group's leader, Yasin Abu Bakr, was recently held for questioning with regard to the 2014 murder of Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal, who was working as a prosecutor in the Naipaul-Coolman case. But police officials and Trinidad and Tobago's Minister of National Security have been careful to say that no connection has yet been established between the jailbreak and Bakr's detention:

Atwell was due to be extradited to the United States on hostage-taking charges, and there has been speculation that the jailbreak could be connected to the pending extradition. Minister of National Security Brigadier Carl Alfonso, has stated, however, that he has “no information on any planned extradition of Atwell”.

Today, at approximately 10:30am Trinidad and Tobago time, Hassan Atwell had posted the following message publicly on his Facebook page, prompting speculation online as to how a prison inmate had access to Facebook in the first place:

A true believer would accept death any day over oppression. And a true believer must do everything in his or her power to remove themselves from under oppression without fearing death. For it is more pleasing to ALLAH for a believer to stand up and fight against oppression and die in the process than for a believer to sit down and just accept oppression because he or she is afraid of death.

On Facebook, Jason Blackknight Subero publicly posted a video of the shootout on the grounds of the hospital, where the escapees reportedly fled, saying, “Live shootout, five minutes response from police…. POS hospital.. Bhagdad!!”:

Live shootout, five minutes response from police…. POS hospital.. Bhagdad!! .

Posted by Jason Blackknight Subero on Friday, July 24, 2015

The Global Voices Caribbean team will provide updates on this story as more information becomes available.

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