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Ecuador prison violence: Emergency declared as gang war claims 118 lives
The violence began on Tuesday when inmates from one wing of the Litoral jail dug a tunnel to enter another block housing their rivals to attack the prisoners imprisoned there. Nine hundred police and army men have been deployed but the situation is still out of control. A war of supremacy between Mexican drug cartels for control of passage of cocaine smuggled from Peru and Colombia via Ecuador is said to be behind the gang war.

GUAYAQUIL (Ecuador), Oct 1: President Guillermo Lasso has decreed a state of emergency in Ecuador following uncontrolled gang war in the Litoral jail in Guayaquil killing 118 prisoners. The prisoners were using explosives and firearms. Starting on Tuesday, explosions and shootings are still continuing.

The battle began on Tuesday when inmates from one wing of the prison dug a tunnel to enter the neighbouring block to attack a rival gang of prisoners imprisoned there. Nine hundred police and army men were deployed to bring the situation under control but without much result.

Anxious relatives rushed to the prison premises as the news spread. But identification has become difficult as some bodies have been decapitated or dismembered.

A power struggle between Mexican cartels currently under way in Ecuador is also being said to be behind the brutal violence. Drug cartels vie for control of drug smuggling routes. Cocaine from neighbouring Peru and Colombia is smuggled through Ecuador. Officials reported that the Los Lobos and Los Choneros prison gangs are involved.

Ecuador has witnessed a series of brutal killings in prisons in recent times. In February, 79 prisoners were killed in fights at four jails like the Litoral Penitentiary. Prisons are overcrowded and the guards are unable to control the inmates who acquire firearms.

The President said at a news conference that what had happened in the prison was "bad and sad" and that he could not guarantee that authorities have regained control of the lockup. "It is regrettable that the prisons are being turned into territories for power disputes by criminal gangs," he said, but added that he would act with "absolute firmness" to regain control of the Litoral prison.

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