Quito: A prolonged gun battle between rival gangs inside Ecuador's largest prison killed at least 68 inmates and wounded 25 on Saturday, while authorities said clashes were still uncontrolled hours later at the Litoral Penitentiary, which recently saw the country's worst prison bloodbath.
The killing erupted before dawn at the prison in the coastal city of Guayaquil in what officials said was the latest outbreak of fighting among prison gangs linked to international drug cartels. Videos circulating on social media showed bodies, some burned, lying on the ground inside the prison.
In the initial fighting, which lasted eight hours, inmates tried to dynamite a wall to get into Pavilion 2 to carry out a massacre. They also burned mattresses to try to drown (their rivals) in smoke, said the governor of Guayas province, Pablo Arosemena.
The bloodshed came less than two months after fighting among gangs killed 119 people at the prison, which houses more than 8,000 inmates.
The prison violence comes amid a national state of emergency decreed by President Guillermo Lasso in October that empowers security forces to fight drug trafficking and other crimes.
On Saturday, Lasso tweeted that the first right that we should guarantee should be the right to life and liberty, which isn't possible if security forces can't act to protect. He was referring to the Constitutional Court's recent refusal to allow the military into prisons despite the state of emergency. Soldiers are currently outside the Litoral.
Ecuador's prisons are seeing a wave of brutal violence.
The bloody fighting inside Litoral prison that killed 119 inmates in late September was described by authorities as the South American country's worst-ever prison massacre. Officials said at least five of the dead were beheaded.
Last February, 79 inmates were killed in simultaneous riots in various prisons. So far this year, more than 300 prisoners have died in clashes in penitentiaries across Ecuador.