Over 50 officers taken hostage by prisoners following car bombings in Ecuador

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Web Desk
Policemen remove a burned car in front of the headquarters of the agency in charge of managing prisons (SNAI) on August 31, 2023, in Quito, Ecuador. — AFP
Policemen remove a burned car in front of the headquarters of the agency in charge of managing prisons (SNAI) on August 31, 2023, in Quito, Ecuador. — AFP

The capital city of Ecuador, Quinto, witnessed two car bombings and grenade attacks, on Thursday, which were followed by at least 57 prison guards and police personnel being taken hostage by convicts in six prisons, according to officials.

The prison uprising was believed to be in retaliation to a police raid on jails the previous day to gather weapons. Although no victims were reported, the series of attacks appeared to be an act of force by organised crime organisations.

The two car bombs were intended for the SNAI prison authority; one detonated outside of its headquarters and the other outside of a building that had housed SNAI offices, according to AFP.

Inmates in six jails around the country had, after hours had passed, according to SNAI, managed to capture seven police officers and fifty prison guards.

"We are concerned about the safety of our officials," said Interior Minister Juan Zapata at a press conference in the capital Quito.

Ecuadorean soldiers stand guard outside the Virgilio Guerrero Detention Centre for Adolescent Offenders after inmates started a fire inside the premises during a riot, in northern Quito, on August 31, 2023. — AFP
Ecuadorean soldiers stand guard outside the Virgilio Guerrero Detention Centre for Adolescent Offenders after inmates started a fire inside the premises during a riot, in northern Quito, on August 31, 2023. — AFP

The country, until a few years ago a peaceful haven nestled between the world's largest cocaine producers — Colombia and Peru — has recently descended into violence as it has itself become a hub for drug trafficking.

Ecuador's prisons have been the location of massacres by rival gangs with links to Colombian and Mexican cartels that have led to more than 430 inmate deaths since 2021, often leaving a trail of burned and dismembered bodies.

The police's anti-drug investigations boss, General Pablo Ramirez, told reporters one of the rigged cars, a sedan, had been loaded with "two gas cylinders with fuel, a slow fuse and apparently dynamite sticks."

Firefighters who rushed to the scene revealed that no one was hurt in the incident.

Quito Mayor Pabel Munoz said the night also saw three grenade explosions in the city. Six people, including a Colombian national, were arrested near the scene of one of these explosions, according to Ramirez.

All have a criminal history of extortion, robbery and murder, he said.

"Three of them were arrested 15 days ago for the theft of a truck and extortive kidnappings... and were released" under conditions, Ramirez said.