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Monrovia - Liberian police shot and killed an escaped prisoner who took part in a mass jail break in the east of the country and wounded another in a gun battle, the justice ministry said Saturday.

“Last night, at about 9pm (2100GMT) escapees from the National Palace of Corrections in Grand Gedeh County opened fire on an ERU (Emergency Response Unit) contingent at the Kynes Town Bridge in Grand Gedeh County,” the statement said.

“During the exchange of fire, one of the escapees, James Nyekan, convicted of armed robbery and serving a 15 year sentence, was killed, while three other escapees were captured. One of those captured is reported to have sustained a bullet wound.”

On Wednesday at least 21 prisoners broke out of the prison at Zwedru, a town located in thick forest which is difficult to police and shelters many armed men accused of using it as a base for launching attacks from Liberia into the west of the Ivory Coast.

Local media put the number of escapees at around 60. Police gave no details of their nationalities.

“The remaining escapees are armed as they are reported to have acquired weapons from hunters along their way,” the ministry statement said.

“Prior to the shoot-out the escapees attacked a nearby village and wounded two civilians.”

The ministry has offered $1,000 (about R8 000) to anyone providing information leading to the arrest of the escaped prisoners.

Monrovia said in mid-September that the border with Ivory Coast was to be partly reopened. It had been closed on June 9 after an attack in the south west of Ivory Coast left at least 18 dead, including at least seven Nigerian United Nations troops.

Abidjan wants Liberia to extradite six Ivorian civilians who were arrested after an attack on an Ivorian army post close to the border at Pekambly.

The six were held in prisons in eastern Liberia, including that at Zwedru, but transferred to Monrovia at the beginning of September. - Sapa-AFP