Caracas: Gunfire rang out at a Venezuelan prison for a second day as thousands of troops sought to regain control in battles that have left at least 3 dead and 18 wounded.

National Guard Gen Luis Motta Dominguez said one inmate had died in addition to two National Guard troops whose deaths were confirmed earlier. At least 18 troops were reported wounded in Friday's clashes at the prison in Guatire, East of Caracas.

The violence erupted in the El Rodeo I prison as troops were searching it for weapons. A riot in the prison on June 12 left 22 dead.

About 50 inmates continued to resist the troops, Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami told state television. He said they "refuse to change their hostile attitude, refuse dialogue." "Everything that we're doing is to protect the inmates' lives," El Aissami said.

Relatives of inmates protested outside the prison, some of them weeping as troops stood guard in anti-riot gear. Soldiers used tear gas at one point Saturday to drive back the distraught relatives.

A 5,000-strong security force, including 3,500 National Guard troops, was joined on Saturday by 400 soldiers from an elite army paratroop unit, officials said. They were occupying both El Rodeo I and the adjacent El Rodeo II prison.

(Agencies)