At least 30 people are confirmed dead and possibly as many as 100 and some 52 injured after heavy clashes broke out during the last hours of Tuesday, Sept. 28, in an Ecuador prison.

Violence broke out in a prison southwest of Guayaquil in a confrontation involving firearms, knives, and explosions. According to initial statements by authorities, the confrontation was caused by a dispute between prison gangs “Los Lobos” and “Los Choneros,” reported Reuters.

According to DW, television images showed inmates firing from the jail’s windows and the detonation of firearms and explosives.

“Thanks to police entering [the prison], more deaths inside were prevented,” said Fausto Buenano, the police chief of Guayaquil city. He said police were attacked with guns.

Police Commander Fabian Bustos told reporters that the police and military operation had regained control of the jail after five hours. He added that several weapons had been seized.

The National Police of Ecuador released an official statement on its Twitter account stating that an alarm was triggered at 9.30 a.m. on Sept. 28 at the Guayas Penitentiary N1 after hearing detonations of firearms.

According to the statement, the withdrawal of administrative personnel was immediately ordered, and a crisis committee was set up, including the highest authorities of the National Police and the penitentiary services administrator.

A little more than an hour after the beginning of the conflict, a commando group entered the penitentiary center, where they had to confront the violent people until around 2 p.m., when they reported having regained control of the place.

On its Twitter account, a local news channel published a series of videos where people are seen running in desperation and trying to flee from the prison while the sound of gunfire can be heard in the background.

According to BBC London, at least 400 police officers participated in the commando group that entered the prison to regain control. 

According to statements obtained by the British media, the situation in the prison when the police entered was catastrophic. A police commander said that at least six inmates had been decapitated, and many others had been shot dead.

National Police Commander Fausto Buenaño said that inmates in one prison sector crawled through a hole to gain access to another sector, where they attacked rival gang members.

Recurring conflicts in Ecuador’s prisons

So far this year, more than 150 people have died in prison violence in Ecuador.

Most of the violent events occurred in February, with at least 79 prisoners killed in simultaneous clashes in various prisons.

The conflicts are usually between gangs connected to dangerous Mexican drug cartels. For example, the Litoral Penitentiary, where the latest riot took place, holds members of “Los Choneros,” an Ecuadorian gang believed to have links to the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel.

But another Mexican criminal group, the Jalisco Cartel—New Generation (CJNG), is also attempting to forge alliances with Ecuadorean gangs to take control of drug smuggling routes from Ecuador to Central America.

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