fbpx mmnews

Ecuador battle between prison gangs leaves at least 68 dead

QUITO:  A gun battle between rival gangs inside Ecuador’s largest prison early Saturday left at least 68 inmates dead in the latest violence to hit the Litoral Penitentiary, which recently saw the country’s worst prison bloodbath.

The fighting lasted for almost eight hours in the lockup in the coastal city of Guayaquil and authorities attributed the fighting to prison gangs linked to international drug cartels. Videos circulating on social media showed bodies, some burned, lying on the ground inside the prison.

Inmates “tried to dynamite a wall to get into pavilion 2 to carry out a massacre. They also burned mattresses to try to to drown (their rivals) in smoke,” said Gov. Pablo Arosemena of Guayas province where Guayaquil is located.

“We are fighting against drug trafficking,” Arosemena said. “It is very hard.”

Police commander Gen. Tanya Varela said authorities using drones saw that inmates in three pavilions were armed with guns and explosives and were trying to enter pavilion 2, which was without its leader who had been released earlier this week.

She said police officers entered to try to protect the pavilion and get the inmates in the other areas to return to their cells. “These events are due to the dispute among criminal gangs over territory; there are now pavilions without leaders,” she said.

Authorities said that besides the 58 dead, 12 inmates were injured and officials seized bombs and guns.

The prison violence comes amid a national state of emergency decreed by President Guillermo Lasso in October that empowers security forces to fight drug trafficking and other crimes.

Ecuador’s penitentiaries are seeing a wave of brutal violence.