QUITO, Ecuador (AP) – Prisoners were killed Tuesday in riots in three Ecuadorian cities following a brawl between rival factions and an escape attempt, authorities said on Tuesday.
Prison director Edmundo Moncayo told a news conference that 800 police offices were helping to regain control of the facilities. Hundreds of tactical officers were deployed after the clashes began late Monday evening.
Moncayo said the two groups were trying to “gain criminal leadership in prisons” as clashes escalated on Monday as police searched for weapons.
Photos and videos on social media show the alleged prisoners being beheaded and dismembered against the backdrop of pools of blood.
Deadly prison riots have occurred relatively frequently in recent years in Ecuador, where prisons were designed for some 27,000 prisoners but held about 38,000.
President Lenin Moreno wrote in his tweets that as a result of this week’s riots, he ordered the Ministry of Defense to “exercise strict control over weapons, ammunition and explosives outside the prisons.”
Moncayo said 33 had died in the southern Ecuadorian prison of Cuenca, 21 in the Pacific coastal city of Guayaquil and eight in the central city of Latakunga.
Moncayo said about 70 percent of the country’s prison population lived in the centers where the riots took place.
Government Minister Patricio Pazmio sent a tweet accusing “the joint action of criminal organizations to cause violence in the country’s prisons,” but he added: “We are in control of the situation.”