April 7, 2007 / 3:20 AM / 12 years ago

Gunmen drop ball in prison hospital escape

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - A group of around 20 gunmen tried to bust an Italian held for drug trafficking out of a Brazilian prison hospital on Friday, but police foiled the movies-like escape attempt.

Globo news network quoted Rio state penitentiary department officials as saying the criminals, who were heavily armed and clad in black, exchanged intense fire with police before fleeing in several cars and abandoning Alessandro Castiglioni.

Castiglioni has been trying to climb over the hospital wall with two other inmates, but they were discovered by guards at the hospital in downtown Rio de Janeiro.

Police confirmed a shootout outside the hospital and prison close to the Rio City Hall, but had no other details. Nobody was hurt in the standoff, which occurred on the Good Friday holiday when the centre of Rio is empty.

The hospital stands close to one of Rio’s shanty towns, which is dominated by drug traffickers.

Castiglioni was arrested in 2003 and charged with international drug trafficking, which included large shipments of cocaine via Brazil to European countries. Brazilian police suspect his ring of being linked to the Italian Mafia.

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