Crime & Justice

68 Die in battle inside Ecuadorian prison

Quito, Nov 13 (EFE).- A battle involving the use of firearms and explosives inside Littoral Penitentiary in Guayaquil left 68 inmates dead and 25 others injured, the Ecuadorian Attorney General’s Office said Saturday.

Forensic teams are already at the scene collecting evidence and an investigation has been opened into the violence that began late Friday and continued overnight, the AG Office said on Twitter.

Authorities had earlier put the death toll at 58.

The governor of Guayas province, which includes Guayaquil, attributed the mayhem to the power vacuum created when the leader of the dominant gang in Cellblock 2 – housing some 700 prisoners – was paroled after serving 60 percent of his sentence.

“That cellblock being without a head, others cellblocks with other gangs tried to bring them to submission, to go in and commit a complete massacre,” Pablo Arosemena told a press conference in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city.

He said that he and other provincial officials went to the prison late Friday night and witnessed “very intense exchange of shots, and explosions very close to the entry gate. A situation of savagery.”

“At the same time, they (the attackers) burned mattress, generating toxic fumes trying to poison” the inmates in Cellblock 2, the governor said.

National Police commander Tannya Varela said that officers were in the process of securing Cellblock 2 and returning other prisoners to their cellblocks.

Police will remain inside the prison for the time being to avert further violence, she said.

An ongoing search has already turned up a rifle, two handguns and 10 sticks of dynamite, Varela said.

Ecuador’s prison system has been operating under a state of emergency since Sept. 29, when 118 inmates were slain – some of them hacked to pieces – at Littoral Penitentiary in what authorities described as a turf war between gangs. EFE sm/dr

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