(AP) — Ecuador’s president has declared a state of emergency in the prison system following a battle among gang members in a coastal lockup that killed at least 116 people and injured 80 in what authorities say was the worst prison bloodbath ever in the country.
Officials said at least five of the dead were found to have been beheaded.
President Guillermo Lasso decreed a state of emergency Wednesday, which will give the government powers that include deploying police and soldiers inside prisons.
The order came a day after the bloodshed at the Litoral penitentiary in Guayaquil that officials blamed on gangs linked to international drug cartels fighting for control of the facility.
Lasso, visibly moved by the carnage, said at a news conference that what had happened in the prison was “bad and sad.”
He also said he could not guarantee that authorities had regained control of the lockup.
“It is regrettable that the prisons are being turned into territories for power disputes by criminal gangs,” he said, adding that he would act with “absolute firmness” to regain control of the Litoral prison and prevent the violence from spreading to other penitentiaries.