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Police regain control of Ecuador prison after deadly riot

October 1, 2021

Police say they have resumed control of a prison in Ecuador which has been the scene of a deadly riot. Fighting between rival gangs has left at least 118 people dead.

Relatives of inmates wait for news outside the Litoral penitentiary in Guayaquil, Ecuador
Ecuador's chief of police said a security operation has restored calm at the Litoral penitentiary in GuayaquilImage: Jose Sanchez/AP/picture alliance

Ecuador's chief of police said on Thursday that a level of calm had been restored at the Litoral Penitentiary in the coastal town of Guayaquil. On Tuesday violence erupted as rival gangs with apparent links to drug cartels fought one another.

Speaking to media following a large security operation involving nearly 1000 police officials, General Tannya Varela said: "Everything is calm, they (inmates) are in the cells. The wards are not taken over by them."

Security operation stems tide of violence

According to local media the violence erupted over a claim by a gang leader that one had more control over the prison than the other. This is understood to have elicited a furious response from opposite rival members.

Hundreds of police officers descended on the penitentiary as fighting saw a number of inmates being beheaded.

The riot led to the government declaring a state of emergency, granting authorities the power to use whatever force  necessary to regain control.

Police said tactical units had been engaged in a "mega-operation" to restore calm.

Authorities confirmed that at least 118 inmates have been killed and another 86 have been wounded.

Varela told media that three handguns, 435 rounds, 25 bladed weapons and three explosive devices had been seized by police.

Anxious wait for relatives

While families of inmates have crowded outside the prison hoping for news, others have learned of the fate of their loved ones from inside the police morgue.

"My son was only 15 days away from release. I came because I saw a video, sent to me by cellphone, where I recognized his head," said Ermes Duarte who had traveled from a nearby town.

The prosecutor's office said six inmates were beheaded.

Ecuador is battling with prison overcrowding and a lack of guards manning its facilities.

In 2021, 237 people have been killed and 166 wounded in prison riots, according to the Ombudsman's office.

kb/jsi (AFP)

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