Troops deployed in Ecuador after spate of organized crime attacks

universe, troops deployed in ecuador after spate of organized crime attacks

Police and soldiers on Wednesday patrolled the terror-stricken streets of two Ecuadoran cities after a spate of attacks blamed on organized crime groups waging a deadly drug war.

Two inmates were killed and six wounded in clashes inside the Guayas 1 prison, the SNAI prison authority said.

Following a wave of strikes Tuesday in which five police officers were killed, a state of emergency and nightly curfew has taken effect in the western provinces of Guayas and Esmeraldas.

A civilian who suffered a gunshot wound to the head on Tuesday died of the injuries the next day, health officials said, bringing the death toll from the attacks to eight.

Two police officials were also injured.

Groups armed with guns and explosives, including car bombs, hit more than 18 targets Tuesday in the cities of Guayaquil and Duran in Guayas province and in Esmeraldas along the border with Colombia.

Targets included police and gas installations, a clinic and a bus terminal.

President Guillermo Lasso declared a 45-day state of emergency in response, with a nightly 9pm-to-5am curfew for the two provinces and special powers to limit freedom of movement and assembly.

Classes in some areas were suspended.

On Wednesday, the streets of Guayaquil — scene of much of the street and prison violence to have hit Ecuador since last year — were unusually quiet. And nervous.

Jorge Arguello, the 36-year-old head of a publishing company, told AFP there was “fear on the streets” and he himself was afraid to leave home after spotting motorcycles — associated with gangs and hitmen — doing the rounds.

Anti-crime operations in the city of 2.8 million people, capital of the Guayas province, yielded 28 arrests early Wednesday, according to Interior Minister Juan Zapata.

Arms, ammunition and explosives were seized.

“It is scary to go out,” said Guayaquil resident Elizabeth, 37, who did not want to give her full name for fear of reprisal.

“The nation is astonished by the actions of drug trafficking mafias, which in tandem with hired killers and common criminals are attempting to scare Ecuadorans,” Defense minister Luis Lara said.

– ‘Open war’ –

Ecuador — once a relatively peaceful neighbor of major cocaine producers Colombia and Peru — has seen a wave of violent crime that authorities blame on turf battles between drug gangs believed to have ties to Mexican cartels.

Civilians have increasingly been caught up in the bloodshed that has claimed more than 60 police lives since last year.

Authorities said Tuesday’s attacks were in response to a mass transfer of inmates from the gang-controlled Guayas 1 prison in Guayaquil.

Angered by the move, inmates at a prison in Esmeraldas took eight guards hostage. They were all later freed.

A day earlier, two headless bodies were found hanging from a pedestrian bridge in Esmeraldas.

Ecuador has gone from being a drug transit route in recent years to an important distribution center in its own right.

The United States and Europe are the main destinations of drugs from Latin America.

The murder rate in Ecuador nearly doubled in 2021 to 14 per 100,000 inhabitants, and reached 18 per 100,000 between January and October this year, according to official data.

Some 400 inmates have died since February last year — many beheaded or burned — as the gang war is waged also behind bars — especially at Guayas 1.

“These acts of sabotage and terrorism are… a declaration of open war,” Lasso said of Tuesday’s attacks.

In 2021, law enforcement seized a record 210 tons of drugs, mostly cocaine. So far this year’s seizures total 160 tons.

Breaking thailand news, thai news, thailand news Verified News Story Network