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Prison massacre in Ecuador leaves 116 inmates dead

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Members of the military gather at the prison in Ecuador where 116 people were killed and 80 injured. Photo: Reuters/Vicente Gaibor del Pino

Members of the military gather at the prison in Ecuador where 116 people were killed and 80 injured. Photo: Reuters/Vicente Gaibor del Pino

People wait outside the prison in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Photo: Reuters/Vicente Gaibor del Pino

People wait outside the prison in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Photo: Reuters/Vicente Gaibor del Pino

Police officers gather outside one of Ecuador's largest prisons, after prisoners died in a riot, in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Photo: Reuters/Vicente Gaibor del Pino

Police officers gather outside one of Ecuador's largest prisons, after prisoners died in a riot, in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Photo: Reuters/Vicente Gaibor del Pino

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Members of the military gather at the prison in Ecuador where 116 people were killed and 80 injured. Photo: Reuters/Vicente Gaibor del Pino

At least 116 people were killed and 80 were injured in the “worst bloodbath ever” in a jail in Ecuador on Wednesday, forcing the South American country to declare a state of emergency in the prison system.

At least 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, President Guillermo Lasso handed over federal powers that include sending in police and soldiers.

He described the gang war as “bad and sad”, and said: “It is regrettable that the prisons are being turned into territories for power 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 prison, the president said he will be acting with “absolute firmness” to ensure the swift return of power to officials.

He promised additional security forces and funds to avoid a repeat of such prison wars and announced that the family members of inmates would get food and psychological support.

A programme worth $24m (€21m) focusing on infrastructure and technology in the Litoral facility will be speeded up.

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Preliminary images from inside the prison 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 Buenaño 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 least 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.

In July, the clashes and death toll were spread across several prisons, but Tuesday’s death toll was particularly stark for being isolated to just one.

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 temporary 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. (©Independent News Service)


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