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Authorities suspect prison van bombers had inside help

Authorities say it appears an escape attempt outside a Johannesburg prison was carefully planned.

A correctional services official arrives for work at the Johannesburg Central Prison on Monday, 22 October 2012. Three prisoners were killed and 14 injured when the truck they were being transported in exploded not far from the prison situated south of the city. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

JOHANNESBURG - The Correctional Services Department on Tuesday said it appeared that a deadly escape attempt outside the Johannesburg Central Prison was a carefully orchestrated operation.

Three inmates died and 14 others were injured yesterday, when an explosive device was set-off while the prisoners were being transported from the Randburg Magistrate's Court back to the facility.

Two prisoners who tried to escape were arrested on the scene.

National Chief Deputy Commissioner of Correctional Services Zach Modise said they were investigating whether the prisoners, most of whom are serious offenders, had help from the inside.

He said authorities suspected that police could have assisted in the operation, but would not rule out that the blast had been planned for a while.

He believes prisoners did not anticipate that their carefully orchestrated plan would fail.

Correctional Services also announced it would be taking a closer look at security at the prison.

National Commissioner Thomas Moyane said they would "beef-up" security at the prison, even though inmates in court were the responsibility of their colleagues in clusters.

He said they used specific routes to minimise risks and that the vehicle would have had to slow down in order to detonate the device.

Police still have no clue how the prisoner managed to get hold of the device.

Meanwhile, four prisoners are fighting for their lives, after they were critically injured in the blast.