Ecuador inmates holding 57 guards, police hostage: Minister
QUITO - Prisoners at six penitentiaries across Ecuador were holding hostage 57 guards and police officers, the country's department of prisons said Thursday.
"We are concerned about the safety of our officials," said Interior Minister Juan Zapata at a press conference in the capital Quito.
Zapata initially said all the hostages were taken at one prison in the city of Cuenca, but SNAI, the state office in charge of prisons, later clarified that the action was spread across six prisons, without identifying which ones.
The mass hostage-taking came a day after hundreds of soldiers and police officers carried out an operation to search for weapons, ammunition and explosives in one of the country's main penitentiaries, in the Andean city of Latacunga in the south.
SNAI said earlier the hostage-taking was believed to be a reprisal for that operation, although some officials said it was in protest at the transfer of inmates to other prisons.
Ecuador's prisons have been the location of massacres by rival gangs with links to Colombian and Mexican cartels that have led to more than 430 inmate deaths since 2021, often leaving a trail of burned and dismembered bodies.
The country, until a few years ago a peaceful South American haven nestled between the world's largest cocaine producers -- Colombia and Peru -- has recently descended into violence as it has itself become a hub for drug trafficking. - AFP