Mass chaos broke out as a battle between rival gangs inside a coastal lockup led to the deaths of at least 116 people, five of whom were beheaded.
As the gang war raged on inside the Litoral penitentiary in Guayaquil, Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency inside the country’s prison system. Reports indicate that at least 116 people were killed, and 80 were injured.
The state of emergency, which was declared on September 29th, gave the government the power to deploy police and soldiers inside the prison system to help quell the violence, though President Lasso stated that he couldn’t guarantee that authorities had regained control of the facility as of yet.
“It is regrettable that the prisons are being turned into territories for power disputes by criminal gangs,” he said, while noting that he would be taking strong action to regain control of the penitentiary and to prevent the violence from spreading to other prisons.
Authorities are calling this incident the worst prison bloodbath in the country’s history, and have blamed the violence on gangs linked to international drug cartels which are fighting over control of the facility.
Images of the aftermath of the bloodbath have circulated on social media, showing dozens of bodies and carnage that resembled battlefields. The inmates fought with firearms, knives, and bombs, according to officials. The violence was so brutal and widespread that bodies were being found inside the prison’s pipelines.
“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.
Relatives of inmates gathered outside of the prison’s morgue, mourning the loss of their loved ones. Many spoke to reporters, giving them graphic details as to how their relatives were killed and dismembered.