Killers and rapists are among more than 200 lags who have escaped a Ugandan jail armed with machine guns.
The “hard-core criminals” are on the loose after reportedly killing a soldier as they broke out of the facility in Moroto.
A military spokeswoman said 219 inmates escaped the prison in the country’s remote Karamoja region before heading for the hills overnight on Wednesday.
Two have been shot dead and two others have been re-captured after they left armed with 15 AK-47 rifles, 20 magazines and other ammunition.
The prison facility is built on the foothills of Mount Moroto, on the edge of the town which has been held at a standstill by the shoot-out with security forces.
Brigadier Flavia Byekwaso said: “It’s a mass escape… these were hard-core criminals,” adding they included murderers, robbers and rapists.
She said: “They’ve had a whole night to disperse and hide, it complicates our efforts but we shall get them.”
The inmates are said to have taken off their distinctive yellow prison uniforms and fled naked into the hills to avoid detection.
This is Uganda’s third prison break since the coronavirus outbreak in March with fears among lags over catching the virus in cramped cells.
The total number of inmates in Uganda rose 10% to 65,000 in the five months to August, says the prison service.
The surge has been blamed on a crackdown on people breaching coronavirus curfews and travel restrictions.
Moroto is the biggest town in Karamoja, a restive region with a history of cattle rustling and gun violence, the BBC’s Patience Atuhaire reports from Kampala.
A government disarmament programme in the early 2000s took most of the guns out of the hands of civilians, but sporadic clashes between different communities have continued to happen, our correspondent notes.