Suspected gang members believed to have participated in the bloodshed, authorities say
Ecuador’s interior minister has said the state of emergency declared following jail violence that left nearly 60 dead will be lifted as all bodies will be removed from two prisons.
A gunman with an assault rifle fired on prisoners at the Parapol prison in Quito late on Friday in a premeditated attack believed to have been carried out by inmates who have been feuding for control of the area. A second attack on an inmate wing at the Comayagua prison a few hours later killed 19.
Policemen arrive at the scene of the riot. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
As authorities worked to restore order in both prisons, the security minister, Gustavo Larrea, said preliminary information indicated the violence had been provoked by a dispute between rival street gangs from one of the prison cells, dubbed La Vanguardia.
Larrea said initial investigation suggested that the assassin was not one of the inmates and the victims and offenders had been killed for different reasons. “It will remain classified as a revenge fight. There was no probable outcome,” he said.
More than 10 police and members of a special police unit known as the “boom box” were among the more than 130 inmates and inmates’ relatives wounded in the attack, the government said.
Guillermo Espinosa, the local police chief, said officers used teargas and stun grenades to stop the first gunmen from entering the Parapol prison. More than 30 guards and officers were hurt, he said.
Police used teargas and stun grenades to stop the first gunmen from entering the Parapol prison. Photograph: Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images
“As soon as I heard about what was happening I went into the prison and I saw the dead bodies inside,” said Marcos, who spent the night at a hospital with bullet wounds in his legs and hand.
A public prosecutor’s official said the bodies of about 40 of the dead were sent to the attorney general’s office for identification. Four people were arrested and soldiers were inside both prisons to ensure security, the minister said.
According to a report by the prosecutor, six police officers died in the attack on the Comayagua prison.
Luis Jaime Osorio, the head of the special security unit, said the Comayagua prisoners rioters on Sunday included an adult male who was gunned down early on in the incident. “He was sure shot dead by an inmate with a firearm,” Osorio said.
People leaving a Quito hospital after being wounded in the prison violence. Photograph: Lydia Mahe/AFP/Getty Images
Eight people were killed on Friday and another 26 were hurt as guards tried to stop the attackers in Parapol, according to a similar account from the prosecutor.
Although Parapol is a medium-security prison that houses about 1,200 inmates, authorities closed the jail to visitors because the perpetrators already walked out of the facility, Osorio said.
Investigators on Sunday continued to comb through the sites of the jail attacks looking for clues on the motives for the violence.
Elena Monte said her son, Ivan, was shot and killed in Parapol on Saturday. She said her 15-year-old son Lucas was also wounded and was expected to survive.
“They shot my son seven times – all on the right side of his body,” Monte said. “Even now it’s hard to handle all that’s happened.”
President Lenin Moreno, who declared a state of emergency, said he had received support from residents of the city and promised to increase prison security. He said he had also requested help from the United Nations for the Ecuadorian police.