At least 23 people have died in one of Bogotá’s largest jails after what the authorities are calling a mass breakout attempt amid rising tensions over coronavirus.
Colombia’s Justice Minister Margarita Cabello said 83 inmates were injured during a riot at La Modelo prison.
Inmates at prisons across the country held protests on Sunday against overcrowding and poor health services during the coronavirus outbreak.
The justice ministry is investigating.
Ms Cabello said 32 prisoners and seven guards were in hospital. Two guards are in a critical condition.
She said the violence was a coordinated plan with disturbances reported across 13 of the country’s prisons.
Denying claims of unsanitary conditions amid fears of a coronavirus breakout, she said: “There is not any sanitary problem that would have caused this plan and these riots.
“There is not one infection nor any prisoner or custodial or administrative staffer who has coronavirus.”
She said prisoners had run amok and some would be charged with attempted murder, and damage to property.
A large number of relatives gathered outside the gates of La Modelo prison to await news of their loved ones. They said they had heard of shots being fired after the security forces arrived.
Videos posted to social media showed inmates setting fire to mattresses. (Courtesy BBC)