New prison riot in Ecuador leaves 68 dead
Prisoners from rival gangs in Ecuador fought each other with guns, explosives and blades in a bloodbath that killed at least 68 people in the same prison where a riot in September killed 119.
Authorities said late on Saturday they had re-gained control of the prison in Guayaquil for a second time in as many days after President Guillermo Lasso's spokesman said fighting had again broken out earlier in the day between inmates from rival gangs tied to drug trafficking rings.
In the initial riot that began Friday night prisoners fought with "savagery," said Pablo Arosemena, governor of the province of Guayas where the prison is located.
The riot began around pm Friday when prisoners tried to enter Block 2 of the jail where their rivals were held, firing gunshots, detonating explosives and swinging machetes, and prompting police to move in.
At least 68 prisoners were killed and another 25 were wounded, according to a statement which the Ecuador Prosecutor's Office posted on Twitter.
In the second outbreak of fighting on Saturday, inmates from two rivalblocks attacked each other, said presidential spokesman Carlos Jijon.
He confirmed police had pushed through to the prison's interior and that the situation was "under control."
Officials said the violence started when one of the gangs inside the prison, the Tiguerones, was left without its leader because he was released after serving part of his sentence for stealing auto parts.
Other groups, sensing weakness in the Tiguerones with that man gone, went on the attack to try to crush the gang, Arosemena said.
He said their goal was "to go in and carry out a total massacre."
Earlier Saturday, police officers in riot gear were seen climbing up the blood-stained prison walls, while the body of an inmate in an orange prison jumpsuit lay on the roof of the jail encircled by barbed wire.
Images posted on social networks, whose authenticity has not been confirmed by the authorities, showed a pile of bodies in a night-time prison courtyard being consumed by flames while inmates standing nearby beat the bodies with sticks. In another video, a prisoner from the block that was being attacked says, "We are locked in our pavilion.
"They want to kill us all."
"Please share this video. Please help us!" the inmate implores, as repeated bangs are heard in the background.
Dozens of people gathered outside the prison gates on Saturday morning, fainting or weeping as they tried to learn the fate of their loved ones inside.
"They are human beings, help them," read a banner held by one of the families, kept back by a deployment of police and soldiers supported by an armoured car.
A group of women with one cell phone shouted prisoners' names to an inmate who was inside the prison and on the line, hoping to know if those men were still alive.
"Here there are relatives from block two and they need to know about the boys," the woman holding the phone said.
A crackly voice was heard from the phone but the signal was spotty and then there was just silence.
At a coroner's office in the city, Felix Gonzalez showed up holding his imprisoned son's ID card and asked if his body was there. "It is not fair for him to die for stealing a cellphone," Gonzalez said.