Rival gangs fought in a prison in Ecuador, killing at least six inmates in the latest riot to hit the troubled penal system, the government said Sunday.
Another 11 prisoners were injured in the new bout of violence in the Guayas 1 prison in the port city of Guayaquil overnight Saturday into Sunday, the agency that runs the prison system said.
Mass killings featuring stunning levels of violence such as beheadings are common in the overcrowded Ecuadoran prison network.
The riots pit gangs with links to drug traffickers against each other in this country that has emerged as a key player in the South American cocaine trade.
Authorities say a dozen drug-gang riots have claimed at least 420 lives in prisons since 2021. Some of the victims were burnt alive.
Anguished people waited outside the Guayas prison on Sunday hoping for news of loved ones held inside.
"I am desperate here, and I want information and I do not have any at all," said a woman whose son is a prisoner inside. She asked not to be identified.
The prison agency said inmates are holding some prison guards in four other penitentiaries. It did not say how many but insisted these hostages "are in good shape."
The agency also said inmates in a dozen prisons across the country "went on hunger strike" on Sunday, without specifying the reasons.
Guayaquil, on Ecuador's southern Pacific coast, is the country's largest city, biggest port and economic hub but in recent years has become the increasingly bloody center of a gang turf war.
The location of the city, home to three million of Ecuador's 18 million people, makes it a strategic launch point for shipments of drugs to the United States and Europe.
The overcrowded prisons in Ecuador have become among the most violent in Latin America.
Tucked between Colombia and Peru, the world's main cocaine producers, Ecuador has seized 455 tons of drugs since President Guillermo Lasso took office in May 2021.
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