A total of 27 teenagers escaped from the Juvenile Diagnostic and Rehabilitation Center in Lima within a 24-hour period, Peruvian Interior Minister Wilfredo Pedraza said Wednesday.

The teenagers fled in two groups of 13 and 14 people on New Year's Eve and during the early hours of Jan. 1. Police managed to locate and detain eight of them on several streets in the capital's San Miguel district.

Pedraza told RPP radio that the search, which is being handled by three teams of police, is being conducted nationwide, and he expressed confidence in "the recapture of the majority is a question of hours."

Among the 21 remaining fugitives is a 17-year-old, identified by the initials A.P.G., who is considered by authorities to be one of the country's most dangerous assassins and who previously had managed to escape from other detention facilities.

Pedraza agreed with the demands expressed by the Lima district of San Miguel asking for the reformatory to be transferred to "a much more secure location" for the sake of both the inmates and local residents.

"This is about teenagers who, due to their level of dangerousness, force us to take exceptional measures," he said.

In both of this week's escapes, the inmates took advantage of the entry of trucks into the reformatory to overwhelm the guards at the door and leave the facility.

According to prosecutor Jorge Saenz, who is investigating the escapes, the method the escapees used is "rather suspicious" because it was repeated twice, leading him to conclude that officials are to blame or perhaps were even complicit in the breakouts. EFE