The death toll in a gang battle in a penitentiary in the coastal city of Guayaquil has risen to more than 100 as authorities find more bodies, Ecuador’s prison service said Wednesday. At least five of the bodies were beheaded.
President Guillermo Lasso decreed a state of emergency in the country’s prison system, and authorities attributed the bloodshed at the Guayas prison to gangs linked to international drug cartels fighting for control of the lockup.
The country’s prisons bureau said in a tweet that “as of the moment more than 100 dead and 52 injured have been confirmed” in Tuesday’s clash at the Guayas prison that involved guns, knives and bombs.
“It is a tragedy … that fighting among bands, criminal groups seeking internal control reaches these levels,” prisons bureau director Bolivar Garzon told radio FMundo.
Earlier, the confirmed death toll had stood at 30 but regional police commander Fausto Buenano said bodies found in the prison’s pipelines were still being identified.
Relatives of prisoners await news outside the prison. At least 100 people died in the riot. (Angel DeJesus/The Associated Press)
Armoured vehicles, soldiers, ambulances and relatives of inmates gathered outside the penitentiary, the latter waiting for news of loved ones inside.
Violence blamed on prison gangs
Police Comm. Fabian Bustos said a police and military operation had regained control of the prison after five hours on Tuesday. He said several weapons had been seized.
Col. Mario Pazmino, the former director of Ecuador’s military intelligence, said the bloody fighting shows that “transnational organized crime has permeated the structure” of Ecuador’s prison system, adding that Mexico’s Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels operated through local gangs.
“They want to sow fear,” he told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
In July, President Guillermo Lasso decreed a state of emergency in Ecuador’s prison system following several violent episodes that resulted in more than 100 inmates being killed.
Previously, the bloodiest day occurred in February, when 79 prisoners died in a simultaneous riot in three prisons in the country. In July, 22 more prisoners lost their lives in the Litoral penitentiary. In September, a penitentiary centre was attacked by drones, leaving no fatalities.
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