Quito, Apr 3 (EFE).- At least 20 prisoners were killed in clashes in a prison in the southern Ecuadorian city of Cuenca on Sunday.
Ten people were left injured, five of them seriously, in the first major episode of violence in the country’s jails this year.
Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso had recently highlighted that only eight inmates had died in prisons since the beginning of the year compared to 83 in the same period last year.
Among the 20 victims reported by the government were at least five mutilated bodies, according to Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo, who acknowledged that the clashing prisoners had used “war equipment,” including rifles, in addition to other firearms and sharp objects that were in their possession.
According to the official, the clashes, which broke out around 1.30 am, occurred because “there is an organization that wants to have absolute power inside the center and there are some cells that have rebelled against them.”
No escapees were recorded, according to the prison service report, while 90 prisoners were evacuated, including the 10 wounded.
The violent clashes could be seen during the night from outside the prison and recordings of explosions and shots were circulated on social media.
A contingent of 800 police officials and 200 soldiers was deployed to regain control of the prison.
It is the first time that the police will access the high-security pavilion of this prison to carry out a meticulous search to seize the weapons held by the inmates.
Carrillo said that the government is “making every effort to prevent those who have no regard for life from continuing to incite war in prisons.”
It is not the first time that a such a massacre has occurred in this prison.
On Feb. 23, 2021, 33 inmates were murdered, most of them decapitated and dismembered, in a simultaneous attack coordinated by criminal gangs in different prisons that left a total of 78 dead across the country.
In its annual report in March, Amnesty International said that, at the end of 2020, at least 316 inmates had died in clashes between rival gangs inside Ecuador’s prisons.
Of the total prison homicides, 79 took place in February 2021, 119 on Sep. 28 and 62 between Nov. 12-13.
The government attributes the killings to disputes between drug gangs. EFE