KABUL, Afghanistan - Hundreds of inmates, including convicted al-Qaida and Taliban militants, waving knives and wielding clubs made from furniture overpowered guards and took control of parts of a high-security prison in Afghanistan's capital, officials said Sunday.
Police and soldiers surrounded the Policharki Prison as government officials tried to negotiate through loudspeakers with the inmates. Their demands were not known.
Mohammed Qasim Hashimzai, deputy justice minister, reported some initial progress in talks, but an Associated Press correspondent heard periodic gunfire and prisoners shouting, "God is Great!"
Inmates agreed to move 70 female prisoners from a wing under their control to a wing under official control, Hashimzai said.
The rioting started Saturday night when prisoners refused to put on new uniforms, delivered in response to a breakout last month by seven Taliban inmates disguised as visitors, Hashimzai said.
Prisoners forced guards out of a cell block housing about 1,300 inmates, said Abdul Salaam Bakshi, chief of prisons in Afghanistan. He accused al-Qaida and Taliban inmates of inciting other prisoners.
The Afghan army deployed more than 100 soldiers, some with helmets and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, to surround the prison, along with NATO peacekeepers. Forces parked 10 tanks and armored personnel carriers outside the gates. One soldier, however, said they were firing rubber bullets, not live ammunition.
"All the problem is inside the prison," Bakshi said. "We want to peacefully solve this problem."
Hashimzai said at least four inmates were injured in the riot Saturday night but prisoners refused an offer for them to be treated. No guards were hurt in the clash, he said.
Bakshi said the inmates attacked guards and tried to force their way out of their prison block but were stopped. He said the inmates had small knives and clubs fashioned from wrecked furniture and set fire to bedding.
The prison holds 2,000 inmates, including some 350 al-Qaida and Taliban militants.
Hashimzai said about 100 inmates took control of the women's wing.
A justice ministry delegation visited the prison on the outskirts of Kabul Sunday morning to negotiate with the prisoners.
"They have demands, we are going to listen to what they want," Hashimzai said. "If we cannot solve it through negotiations, we have our own options."
He refused to say whether he was referring to the use of force.
Policharki has suffered breakouts and riots before.
In December 2004, four inmates and four guards died during a 10-hour standoff that started when some al-Qaida militants used razors to wrest guns from guards and then tried to break out. Afghan troops stormed the prison and fired guns and rocket-propelled grenades to retake control.
Several wings of Policharki are being refurbished to improve security and living conditions. Some 110 Afghan terror suspects are expected to be transferred there later this year from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Afghan officials say.