at the minimum 116 people killed and 80 were injured in the “worst bloodbath ever” in a jail in Ecuador, it was announced on Wednesday, forcing the South American country to declare a state of emergency in the prison system. at the minimum five of the dead were beheaded, according to officials.
The carnage at the Litoral Penitentiary in the city of Guayaquil erupted after a battle broke out on Tuesday night among gang members of international drug cartels vying to capture control of the facility.
Announcing the state of emergency at the prison facility, President Guillermo Lasso handed over federal powers which include deploying police and soldiers inside the prison.
The country’s national police service said it had sent in 400 officers to restore order.
President Guillermo Lasso described the gang war as “bad and sad”, and said: “It is regrettable that the prisons are being turned into territories for strength disputes by criminal gangs. I ask God to bless Ecuador and that we can avoid more loss of human life.”
While it remained unclear if the authorities had regained complete control of the facility, the president said he will be acting with “absolute firmness” to ensure rapid capture of strength back in the hands of officials.
He promised additional security forces and funds to avoid a repeat of such prison wars. He also announced that the family members of inmates would get food and psychological sustain. A programme worth $24m focusing on infrastructure and technology in the Litoral facility will be sped up, the president additional.
Preliminary visuals from inside the prison’s Pavilions 9 and 10 showed a gory battlefield-like situation with dozens of bodies piled up inside. The gang rivals came to blows with firearms, knives and bombs, according to officials. Some bodies were also found in the pipes of the prison, regional police commander Fausto Buenano said on Tuesday.
Family members and relatives of the deceased inmates were seen crying outside the prison morgue as they described how the bodies of their jailed loved ones were decapitated and dismembered.
Ecuador is no stranger to prison violence – this is the third prison fight resulting in mass deaths in the country this year, but Tuesday’s bloodbath is the deadliest so far.
at the minimum 79 people died in February and more than 100 died in July in similar clashes in Ecuador’s prisons, with the latter forcing the president to announce a state of emergency. While in July, the clashes and death toll were spread across several prisons, Tuesday’s death toll was particularly stark for being secluded to just one prison.
The violence was condemned by Ecuadorian leaders who criticised the federal administration for not taking steps to prevent such gang wars despite the February riot.
“In the history of the country, there has not been an incident similar or close to this one,” said Ledy Zuniga, the former president of Ecuador’s National Rehabilitation Council.
Seeking a permanent handover of the country’s prison system from the government to the national police, Colonel Mario Pazmino, the former director of Ecuador’s military intelligence, said the fighting shows how “transnational organised crime has permeated the structure” of Ecuador’s prisons.
Mexico’s Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels function by local gangs, Mr Pazmino said.
Additional reporting by agencies
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