The unrest on last Friday at the jail at Tshikapa was sparked by the death of a former militia fighter in detention and the refusal of prison staff to hand the body over to his friends for burial.
“Nine prisoners died when security forces tried to recapture them,” prison head Masaka Nansaka told reporters, adding that two police officers and two former militia fighters were also killed.
“Eight others were injured by bullets and have been admitted to hospital.”
Nansaka said roughly 60 people managed to escape, adding that the facility had held 272 civilian and 98 military prisoners before the jailbreak.
Police have captured 16 of the escapees.
Authorities estimate that around 1,700 militia fighters were operating in the Kasai region but there have been mass surrenders since new President Felix Tshisekedi took power last month. Tshisekedi’s family is from the region.
Kasai’s deputy governor Hubert Mbingho said the trouble started when friends of the dead militia fighter came to claim his body.
“The prison authorities refused and an altercation followed. The detainees took advantage of this and wounded a policeman and took his weapon,” he said.
“In the confusion many prisoners escaped and jumped into the Kasai river flowing alongside the jail and swam away,” Mbingho added.
In January five prisoners were killed during a jailbreak in another part of Kasai.