80 dead in Ecuador prison massacre

Al Jazeera

At least 80 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in an overnight prison riot in Ecuadoran capital Quito, officials say.

Seventy of the dead are prisoners, with the other two reported still trapped, said the city’s governor on Saturday.

The Correa administration called for a curfew in Quito and called in the military.

Provincial authorities had accused the guards of human rights violations and committed a massacre.

Officials said most of the dead were massacred in a maximum security prison, Miraflores, which holds hundreds of inmates.

“Some 79 individuals were killed” and dozens more seriously wounded, Colonel Alfredo Romero, chief of national police in Ecuador, told reporters.

“We know of 40 injuries and expect many more,” he said, adding that the apparent massacre took place inside the prison.

Many of the injured and dead were brought to the hospital by relatives and friends, according to the El Comercio newspaper.

The unrest began early Friday morning, with armed men entering the prison.

The officials confirmed that there were many different gangs inside Miraflores.

El Comercio newspaper reported that most of the armed men were seeking to seize weapons.

It quoted prison chief Moreno Locatelli, who also heads the National Police, as saying that the armed men carried out brutal acts and dressed in riot gear.

“They killed more than 30 people in the prison, some in cold blood,” he said.

On Saturday, the president’s security minister, Alejandro Moreno, visited the prison, where he witnessed the bodies in the morgue.

He said he would propose to Congress a commission to investigate the event, calling the inmates “terrorists”.

Correa said those responsible would be arrested.

“We will not allow these murderous soldiers to escape justice,” he said in a message on Twitter.

“Violence will never, in my government, ever be tolerated in any of our institutions.”

Moreno said it took hours for the situation to be resolved, and that he had met with Ecuadoran military leaders to ensure safety.

Before entering the prison on Friday, officials had estimated the death toll could be between 60 and 80.

The president cancelled his trip to Germany and Mexico, where he was to attend a meeting of emerging market economies, to return to Quito.

There were calls from opposition leaders for Correa to step down because of the violence.

“It’s atrocious what happened. The authorities must give us a clear picture of the events that led to so many deaths,” said Ana Maria Allessio, from the opposition Reformista party.

“We are being told dozens of bodies have been recovered,” she said.

The country’s attorney general is investigating how the crisis unfolded, according to Radio Caraqueña.

Other media outlets, including the opposition newspaper El Universo, have said that 75 prisoners were killed and 160 injured in the prison.

Parole lawyer Reynaldo Varela said inmates had told him that about 70 prisoners inside Miraflores were killed on Friday, with the rest of the prisoners being taken out alive.

Police are using loudspeakers to appeal for inmates to surrender to the security forces.

The unrest at Miraflores follows the prison riot in Santander earlier this month, when seven police officers were killed.

Ecuador’s estimated 1,800-prisoner criminal underworld is rife with corrupt guards and an under-resourced security force.

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