TUNIS: All but six of almost 50 common criminals who escaped from jail in southern Tunisia after attacking their guards have been recaptured, the interior ministry said on Tuesday.
"Operations are under way to arrest the six still on the run," it said in a statement, adding that the mastermind of the escape by 49 inmates of Gabes prison on Sunday night was among 43 who had been recaptured.
According to Tunisia's prison service chief Habib Sboui, the jailbreak came after guards went to a cell in response to calls for help. When they unlocked the door, they were attacked by inmates who then escaped.
"The prisoners pretended that someone had been hurt with a fan. The guards rushed to the scene but when they opened the cell door, they were attacked," Sboui said, adding that three guards were hospitalised for injuries.
He said an inquiry has been launched into the escape and also criticised the "lamentable infrastructure" of Gabes prison.
Tunisian prisons are notoriously overcrowded, with some holding three times as many detainees as they were designed for.
Official statistics published in May said there are 22,000 prisoners in the country's jails.
Tunisia witnessed a massive prison exodus at the start of 2011, with around 9,500 detainees escaping shortly after the revolution that toppled former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
There have been a number of large-scale jailbreaks across the region in past weeks, notably in the Libyan city of Benghazi where nearly 1,300 inmates escaped in late July with the suspected assistance of Al-Qaeda.