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2 officers killed, prison guards taken hostage in Ecuador gang violence

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In response to a prisoner transfer, organized crime groups in Ecuador carried out nine attacks involving explosives and firearms, killing two police officers and injuring another.

    Police inspect the scene of a car bomb attack at Pascuales bus station in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

The Ecuadorian cities of Guayaquil and Esmeraldas were hit by a series of attacks on Tuesday in an escalating gang war. (Photo: AFP)

By Agence France-Presse: Two police officers were killed, two more injured and prison guards were taken hostage Tuesday in the latest wave of attacks in a deadly gang war that consumed Ecuador, authorities said. Officials said organized crime groups launched nine explosives and firearms attacks against police and oil installations in response to a transfer of detainees from Guayas 1 prison.

The prison, in the southwestern port city of Guayaquil, is one of the key scenes in a series of prison massacres that have killed about 400 inmates since February 2021.

“We’ve had responses” from “organized crime” in Guayaquil and in the northwestern oil port of Esmeraldas, Interior Minister Juan Zapata told reporters in the capital Quito. These include car bombings.

According to police, two police officers died in the early morning hours when their patrol car was attacked by people with firearms in Guayaquil. Two officers were injured in a separate attack on a police station there.

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In Esmeraldas – the same town where two headless bodies were found on Monday hanging from a pedestrian bridge – inmates have taken eight guards hostage, according to the SNAI prison authority. All were later released, it said, without giving details about the condition of the guards.

A video circulating on Twitter showed two guards with explosives strapped to their bodies and a man claiming to be an inmate denouncing what he called prison corruption. AFP was unable to independently verify the video. “If war is what they want, they will have war,” said the man, his face darkened, adding, “We will use these guards.”


The SNAI had previously announced on Twitter that it would remove about 200 inmates from Guayas 1 prison. It said the transfers were necessary due to the required maintenance of cell blocks.

But according to the alleged hostage video, the move was the reason for the events in Esmeraldas. “Given the events in Esmeraldas and GYE (Guayaquil), we have activated our tactical and investigative units to maintain order and find the perpetrators,” the police said on Twitter.

Once a relatively peaceful neighbor of major cocaine producers Colombia and Peru, Ecuador has seen a wave of violent crime that authorities have blamed for battles between rival drug gangs believed to have ties to Mexican cartels.

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Hundreds of prisoners have been killed – many beheaded or burned – as fighting spread in Ecuador’s vastly overcrowded prisons. Civilians are increasingly involved in the violence, including a wave of car bombs.

The violence has claimed 61 police lives since last year.

In recent years, Ecuador has grown from a drug transit route into an important distribution center in its own right, with the United States and Europe as main destinations.

The homicide rate in Ecuador nearly doubled to 14 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2021, reaching 18 per 100,000 between January and October this year. In 2021, police seized a record 210 tons of drugs, mostly cocaine. So far, this year’s catches total 160 tons.

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