Death toll from Ecuador prison riot jumps to 116

Death toll from Ecuador prison riot jumps to 116 as police reveal rival drugs gangs fought using guns and GRENADES with at least six people beheaded

  • At least 116 people have died and 80 have been injured in Ecuador’s worst-ever prison riot, president says 
  • Fighting broke out between rival drugs gangs on Tuesday morning and was still ongoing Wednesday night 
  • Gangsters fought with grenades, guns and knives and death toll may rise further, president announced 
  • He blamed Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco New Generation Cartel – two of the country’s most-notorious – for infiltrating local drugs gangs and sparking the violence 

At least 116 people have died in Ecuador’s worst-ever prison riot as rival drug gangs fought for two days using guns, grenades and knives, the country’s president has revealed. 

Six of those killed at Litoral prison, on the outskirts of the port city of Guayaquil, were beheaded while another 80 were injured in clashes which began Tuesday morning and continued overnight Wednesday.

Police are still battling to regain full control over the penitentiary, President Guillermo Lasso said at a press conference at 7pm Wednesday, with some 400 officers in full riot gear deployed into the jail.

Lasso warned that the death toll could keep rising as police retake more of the jail’s wings – known as ‘pavilions’ – while declaring a 60-day state of emergency across the country’s entire prison system.

A visibly-emotional Lasso described the riot as ‘bad and sad’ and blamed the violence on notorious Mexican drugs cartels which he said had infiltrated local outfits. Police commander Fausto Buenaño had said that bodies were being found in the prison´s pipelines.

The fighting is thought to have taken place between Ecuadorian outfit Los Choneros, who are allied to El Chapo’s Sinaloa Cartel, and the rival Los Tiguerones and Los Lobos gangs, who are allied to the Sinaloa’s rivals the Jalisco New Generation Cartel. 

At least 116 people have been killed and 80 injured in Ecuador’s worst-ever prison riot after rival drugs gangs fought for two days over control of Litoral prison, in the city of Guayaquil (pictured, inmates on the roof on Wednesday afternoon)

Police and soldiers were still battling to regain control of the penitentiary overnight Wednesday, the country’s president admitted, as he warned the death toll could rise further as officers push deeper into the jail 

A 60-day state of emergency has been declared throughout Ecuador’s prison system, allowing the government to deploy the military into jails to restore order (pictured, police officers outside the jail on Wednesday night)

Distraught relatives gathered outside the jail overnight, desperate for news of loved-ones locked up inside – as horror stories emerged of people being beheaded within the prison walls

Gangsters fought with guns, grenades and knives during the bloody prison battle, Ecuador’s president said, while the local police chief said that bodies had been found in the pipe system 

Riot police stand guard outside the prison on Tuesday evening 

A shirtless inmate is seen standing on the roof during the riot at Litoral Penitentiary in the coastal city of Guayaquil on Tuesday

The riot is thought to have been sparked by a birthday party that was thrown for the leader of the Los Choneros gang on September 24. During the party, gang members had boasted that they controlled the jail and taunted their rivals, according to local news site Primacias.

Unwilling to take the provocation laying down, members of the Tiguerones and Lobos gangs planned a revenge attack that they launched on Tuesday morning by crawling through a hole separating the jail wings in which they were housed and into wings holding Choneros members.

Once inside, they began throwing grenades and beheading rival gang members, before the Choneros struck back with gunfire.

Some of the worst violence was concentrated around Pavilions 9 and 10 of the prison, with dozens of bodies found littering the blood-soaked floors.

Outside the prison morgue, the relatives of inmates wept, with some describing to reporters the cruelty with which their loved ones were killed, decapitated and dismembered.

‘In the history of the country, there has not been an incident similar or close to this one,’ said Ledy Zúñiga, the former president of Ecuador’s National Rehabilitation Council.

Zúñiga, who was also the country’s minister of justice in 2016, said she regretted that steps had not been taken to prevent another massacre following deadly prison riots last February.

Earlier, officials said the violence erupted from a dispute between the ‘Los Lobos’ and ‘Los Choneros’ prison gangs.

Col. Mario Pazmiño, the former director of Ecuador’s military intelligence, said the bloody fighting shows that ‘transnational organized crime has permeated the structure’ of Ecuador’s prisons, adding that Mexico’s Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels operate through local gangs.

‘They want to sow fear,’ he told The Associated Press on Wednesday, urging the government to temporarily cede control of the prisons to the National Police. 

‘The more radical and violent the way they murder,’ the more they achieve their goal of control, he added.

Ecuador’s president said that care points had been set up for relatives of the inmates with food and psychological support. He added that a $24 million program to address the country’s prisons will be accelerated, starting with investments in infrastructure and technology in the Litoral prison.

The former director of Ecuador’s prison bureau, Fausto Cobo, said that inside penitentiaries authorities face a ‘threat with power equal to or greater than the state itself.’ 

He said that while security forces must enter prisons with shields and unarmed, they are met by inmates with high-caliber weapons.

In July, the president decreed another state of emergency in Ecuador´s prison system following several violent episodes that resulted in more than 100 inmates being killed. 

Those deaths occurred in various prisons and not in a single facility like Tuesday’s massacre.

Previously, the bloodiest day occurred in February, when 79 prisoners died in simultaneous riots in three prisons in the country. 

In July, 22 more prisoners lost their lives in the Litoral penitentiary, while in September a penitentiary center was attacked by drones leaving no fatalities.

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