13 Turkish Prisoners Die After Setting Prison on Fire
Officials refuse to call fire a protest, but vow to investigate
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 17, 2012 5:29 AM CDT
Smoke billows from a building of a jail in the eastern Turkish city of Van, on October 25, 2011. Much like that fire, inmates set fire to their blankets at another Turkish prison last night.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Inmates in a prison in southeast Turkey set beds and blankets alight, starting a fire that killed 13 prisoners, authorities said today. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the fire affected a ward housing 18 inmates in the prison in the mostly-Kurdish city of Sanliurfa. He said some inmates set their bedding on fire following a fight that broke out inside the ward late last night. It was not immediately clear if the victims had died of burns or from asphyxiation.

Authorities said five of the inmates were hospitalized for smoke inhalation but none were in serious condition. The Sanliurfa prison holds some 1,000 prisoners. Inmates in Turkey have in the past set bedding alight in riots to protest poor prison conditions, but authorities insisted the incident was not a mutiny. "Why (the firefighters) weren't there on time, what caused the fighting, why were these people killed? All of these will be investigated," the region's governor said.