(Update: upgrades casualties, adds info)
Asuncion, Dec 18 (EFE).- At least one police officer and nine inmates were killed during a massive operation at Tacumbú prison, Paraguay’s largest, officials said Monday.
Authorities were aiming to regain control of the prison, which had largely been taken over by criminal gangs.
“Unfortunately, we have to report that we have one casualty within the police ranks,” National Police Commander Carlos Benítez told a press conference.
He added that nine inmates were killed during the operation, which involved thousands of police and military personnel.
Benítez said that around 12 of the 36 injuries reported among the police were from gunshots.
Two military personnel were lightly wounded, he said.
Flanked by other senior police officers, Benítez said the operation had led to authorities taking “absolute control” of the prison.
Tacumbú, located in one of the capital Asuncion’s poorest districts, was the scene of a violent riot in October during which alleged Rotela Clan members set the prison ablaze and held 22 police officers hostage for over 15 hours.
Armando Javier Rotela, the alleged leader of the powerful Rotela Clan, an organization linked to drug trafficking in Paraguay and which has a large presence in Tacumbú, was reportedly captured during Monday’s operation.
Police Commissioner Cardozo told ABC Cardinal radio that the scale of the operation was unprecedented in Paraguay, indicating that it had been planned for “quite some time”.
Firearms, explosives, knives, and even pit bull dogs were found during the raid, Benítez said.
Some 700 inmates at Tacumbú have been transferred to other detention centers.
A statement issued by the Paraguayan Presidency said one of the operation’s objectives was the “total recovery of the presence of the State” in the prison. EFE