British counter-terror police probe attack on jail guards

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British counter-terrorism police launched an investigation Tuesday after a guard at a maximum security prison was taken hostage and injured by three inmates reportedly inspired by the brutal murder of a soldier by suspected Islamic extremists.

The prison officers’ union told AFP that the guard was held hostage for nearly four hours at Full Sutton prison near York in northern England on Sunday, until riot officers managed to free him.

He suffered a broken cheekbone in the attack while a female colleague received minor injuries as she tried to help him.

Britain’s North East Counter Terrorism Unit released a statement saying it was “leading the investigation” into the incident.

There was no official confirmation of reports that the three attackers were Muslim prisoners inspired by the murder last week of British soldier Lee Rigby who was hacked to death in a London street by suspected Islamic extremists.

The Mirror newspaper reported that the guard was kidnapped and beaten by the inmates after they became enraged by a call from the prison's imam to pray for the soldier.

“An officer was taken hostage at Full Sutton prison on Sunday evening,” a spokesman for the prison officers’ union, the POA, told AFP.

“A team of riot officers was deployed and managed to diffuse the situation after four hours.

“I understand that the injuries sustained by the two officers involved in this incident were minor and they have now been discharged from hospital -- but we are lucky that this situation didn’t turn out to be as life-threatening as it could have been.”

He added that a representative of the union was visiting the prison “to try and get a better picture of what happened.”

The justice ministry confirmed that “an incident involving three prisoners” had taken place at the jail.

“A police investigation is ongoing,” a ministry spokeswoman said.

Ten people have been arrested over the soldier’s murder. The two prime suspects, both Muslim converts from Nigerian Christian families, remain in separate hospitals under armed guard after they were shot by police at the murder scene.