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Ecuador Prison Gang War: 110 Killed, 80 Wounded And 6 Beheaded

The death toll from a riot at one of Ecuador’s largest prisons has risen to 116, Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso said on Wednesday, adding that he would send additional security forces and free up funds to avoid a repeat.

Another 80 inmates were injured during Tuesday night clashes at the Penitenciaria del Litoral in Guayas province, which has been the scene of bloody fights between gangs for control of the prison in recent months.

“It is unfortunate that criminal groups are attempting to convert prisons into a battleground for power disputes,” Lasso told reporters in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city. “I ask God to bless Ecuador and that we can avoid more loss of human life.”

Tuesday’s clash is the most deadly act of violence ever reported in Ecuador’s penitentiary system. Similar clashes took place in February and July 2021 in various prisons throughout the country. At least 79 people died in the February violence, and 22 in July.

Dozens of people arrived at the jail to seek information about relatives and demand accountability from officials responsible for the inmates’ safety, while the government bolstered military presence outside the facility. Lasso said the state would assist the families of dead and injured inmates.

The South American country’s Prosecutor’s office said earlier on Wednesday that six of the slain prisoners at Penitenciaria del Litoral had been decapitated.

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.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has previously condemned the violence, and Human Rights Watch urged Ecuador’s government to fully investigate the prison violence and bring those responsible to justice.

Lasso in August said the government would provide more funding for the overcrowded prison system to build new wards and install new equipment to improve security.

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