Six killed in gang clashes in Ecuador prison, officials targeted

QUITO (Reuters) -At least six inmates were killed and 11 more were injured in weekend clashes between gang members in an Ecuadorian prison, authorities said on Sunday during the latest outbreak of violence to convulse the country’s jails.

The fighting between inmates belonging to rival organized crime outfits took place between Saturday evening and Sunday morning in the Guayas No. 1 prison in the western city of Guayaquil, the SNAI prison authority said in a statement.

Following the violence, inmates at 10 prisons in Ecuador, including the scene of the latest deaths, said they were going on hunger strike, the SNAI said, without explaining why.

Due to the violence, security protocols were activated across the prison service, and security personnel are currently being held by gang members in five jails, the SNAI said.

The officials appeared to be in good health and security forces were working to free them, it added.

The South American country has suffered a string of serious prison riots since 2021, which have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of inmates. The government has attributed the violence to power struggles between drug gangs.

Ecuador has become an important transit point for cocaine moving to Europe and the United States.

President Guillermo Lasso has increased the presence of security forces and repeatedly declared an emergency in the prison system in a bid to control the violence.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Editing by Diane Craft and Christopher Cushing)

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