Nearly 30 prisoners were killed in a battle between inmates equipped with guns and grenades at a prison in Ecuador’s largest city on Tuesday, officials said.
It is the latest in a series of deadly prison clashes between rival drug gangs that have killed more than 100 inmates this year, AFP reported.
Ecuador’s Attorney General’s office said on Twitter that it was investigating the deaths of 29 convicts at the Litoral Penitentiary in the city of Guayaquil, including six who were beheaded.
Officials have made conflicting statements about the number of injured detainees, with the attorney general’s office reporting 42 while the national prison office previously estimated the number at 48.
President Guillermo Lasso retweeted an announcement from the prison office saying that order “has been restored to the Littoral Penitentiary after the incidents on Tuesday”.
The Ecuadorian prison system has become a battleground between prisoners linked to Mexican drug gangs – primarily the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels.
Guayaquil, Ecuador’s main port city, is a major hub for the shipping of South American cocaine to the north, particularly to the United States.
Last week, police confiscated two pistols, a revolver, some 500 rounds, a hand grenade, several knives, two sticks of dynamite and homemade explosives from one of the city’s prisons.
Two weeks ago, Guayaquil’s No. 4 Prison was attacked by drones, as part of a “war between international cartels,” prison authorities said. The attack caused no casualties.
Ecuador’s prison system has around 60 facilities designed for 29,000 inmates, but is burdened by overcrowding and understaffing.
The country’s human rights ombudsperson said there were 103 murders in prisons in 2020.
27 inmates died in riots in two prisons in July, in an incident that forced the government to declare a state of emergency.