Quito, Jan 9 (EFE).- Shortly after heavily armed hooded men invaded a television station in the city of Guayaquil, and amid escalating tensions, Ecuadorian president Daniel Noboa issued on Tuesday a decree declaring an “internal armed conflict” and ordering the armed forces to take military action against organized crime groups.
The declaration comes a day after a series of prison riots that led the president to declare a state of exception, which was countered by a wave of terror attacks that swept the country including explosions of vehicles, bombings, kidnappings of policemen and the distribution of pamphlets rejecting inmate transfers.
“I have signed the executive decree declaring an internal armed conflict,” Noboa wrote in a message on his X account (formerly Twitter) on Tuesday, noting that he had designated transnational organized crime groups “as terrorist organizations and belligerent non-state actors.”
Among those listed were “Águilas, ÁguilasKiller, Ak47, Caballeros Oscuros, ChoneKiller, Choneros, Covicheros, Cuartel de las Feas, Cubanos, Fatales, Gánster, Kater Piler, Lagartos, Latin Kings, Lobos, Los p.27, Los Tiburones, Mafia 18, Mafia Trébol, Patrones, R7, Tiguerones.”
Noboa added that he ordered the Armed Forces to carry out military operations against these groups.
Hours before Tuesday’s statement, armed men with their faces covered entered the TC television station threatening employees with rifles, grenades and explosives and took its staff hostage during a live broadcast in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s most populous city and economic center.
Live images showed several armed, hooded men holding the channel’s employees on the floor and demanding that they ask the police, who had arrived on the scene, to leave.
Several gunshots and shouts were then heard as the live broadcast continued, showing the moment when a hooded man placed what appeared to be an unlit stick of dynamite in the coat pocket of a TC television worker.
The TV station continued the live broadcast, during which the hooded men ordered that no one leave the place.
Then people entered shouting “police” and helped those who were still on the set, including at least one injured person who asked for urgent medical attention because he had an unusual blood type.
The channel continued the open broadcast with the image of the darkened set.
The Ecuadorian National Police entered the premises of TC Television hours after the initial attack, arrested at least 13 people and freed all the hostages, who are unharmed except for two employees who suffered minor injuries and are being treated in a hospital.
The elite police forces and Army troops then deployed a heavy security operation in the area.
In Quito, government employees were evacuated and commercial establishments closed their doors for fear of further violence.
The government suspended classes throughout the country until Jan. 12. EFE