Escobar 'sets terms for return to jail'

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The Independent Online
BOGOTA (Reuter) - Pablo Escobar, the fugitive drug lord, set new conditions for returning to jail as Colombian politicians turned their attacks on President Cesar Gaviria yesterday for allowing him to escape.

The government said in a statement it had received a telephone call late on Saturday from 'three well-known citizens', whom it did not name. These intermediaries said they had spoken to Escobar and 'he, apparently prepared to surrender, demanded some conditions'. However, the government repeated that it would only accept Escobar's unconditional surrender.

Escobar may have escaped from jail disguised as a woman after bribing soldiers with food and a promise of money, according to an official report. The Justice Ministry has dismissed the director-general of prisons, Lieutenant-Colonel Hernando Navas - the latest senior official to lose his job over the Escobar scandal.

Escobar, boss of the powerful Medellin cocaine cartel, and nine henchmen escaped from prison near the north-western city of Medellin on Wednesday, after opposing a government attempt to transfer them to another jail. The escape of one of the world's most- wanted drug traffickers, who surrendered 13 months ago in exchange for an official offer of leniency, has deeply embarrassed the government.

A television news programme said on Saturday it had obtained the official report that the army's Fourth Brigade, responsible for guarding Escobar's prison, had sent the government after the escape. The report said civilian guards inside the prison colluded with the prisoners. The prisoners sometimes wore guards' uniforms and joined them at the lookout posts, it said.

Last Tuesday the drug traffickers gained the confidence of soldiers at two lookout posts. The prisoners called over the sergeant in charge of the two posts. He reportedly told the soldiers under his command that seven workmen would be leaving the prison, adding: 'Tomorrow, we will receive a good sum of money.'

Early on Wednesday a group of up to 10 people walked out of the prison and between the army posts, the report said.

A soldier who saw the scene said one of the group, wearing jeans and a wig, resembled a woman. The soldier suspected it was Escobar in disguise. The traffickers were heavily armed when they left jail, the report said. It did not say how the traffickers got out of jail but news reports said they apparently walked out of the gate.