A group of masked gunmen fired threats at frightened employees after breaking into a live television studio in Ecuador.
Before the live stream ceased, Guayaquil’s public television channel TC forced its employees to the ground.
After releasing every employee and making 13 arrests, according to the police, they displayed the recovered weapons.
Since Ecuador declared a 60-day state of emergency on Monday, at least ten people have died.
A notorious gangster disappeared from his prison cell, prompting the declaration of an emergency. It’s unclear if the incident at the TV studio in Guayaquil had anything to do with the boss of the Choneros gang, Fito, Adolfo Macías Villamar, going missing from a prison in the same city.
To stop any instability from entering neighboring Peru, the government there ordered the quick deployment of police officers to the border.
According to US officials, they are “co-ordinating closely” with President Daniel Noboa and his administration in Ecuador and are “ready to assist” in response to the “brazen attacks” that have taken place in that country.
In addition to being a major exporter of bananas, Ecuador also exports oil, coffee, cocoa, shrimp, and fish products. Fighting between foreign and local drug cartels over control of cocaine routes to the US and Europe has been linked to an increase in violence in the Andean nation, both inside and outside of its prisons.
A person could be heard screaming in apparent pain, and a woman could be heard begging, “Don’t shoot, please don’t shoot,” according to the AFP news agency.
“Please, they came in to kill us,” a TC staff member wrote on WhatsApp to AFP. “Please stop this, God. The offenders are broadcasting.”
Police promised that those responsible would be “punished for terrorist acts” after sharing a video of the arrested suspects on social media.
To conduct “military operations to neutralize” what he described as “transnational organized crime, terrorist organizations, and belligerent non-state actors,” President Noboa declared on Tuesday that there was now an “internal armed conflict” in the nation.
He was reacting to a spate of recent prison escapes, jail riots, and other violent incidents that the police had blamed on criminal gangs.
His decree included 21 other gangs: Aguilas, AguilasKiller, AK-47, Caballeros Oscuros, ChoneKiller, Covicheros, Cuartel de las Feas, Cubanos, Fatales, Ganster, Kater Piler, Lagartos, Latin Kings, Lobos, Los p.27, Los Tiburones, Mafia 18, Mafia Trebol, Patrones, R7, and Tiguerones. The Choneros were named after the town of Chone in Manabi Province.
Built upon the state of emergency proclaimed on Monday, the order institutes a curfew every night to reduce violence in the wake of Fito’s escape. Following Monday’s riots, security personnel have been working to restore order in at least six jails.
Tuesday’s attacks in Guayaquil, connected to criminal gangs, claimed eight lives and left three injured. In the neighboring town of Nobol, “armed criminals” also killed two police officers, according to the police.
About forty prisoners, including a second drug lord convicted of a crime, escaped from a prison in the city of Riobamba.
A video that has been making the rounds on social media shows three of the abducted officers sitting on the ground with a gun aimed at them while another is made to read a statement addressed to President Noboa. At least seven police officers were also kidnapped, according to AFP.
The officer reads, “You declared war, you will get war.” “You issued an emergency declaration. We proclaim that soldiers, police, and civilians are the war’s loot.”
Due to security concerns, the police in Quito ordered the evacuation of the government compound.
Residents of Quito told the Reuters news agency that after hearing about the attack at the TV station in Guayaquil, the city was in disarray.
Mario Urena declared that “the city is too nervous.” “People are leaving work earlier. There are lots of cars, lots of people leaving, and lots of alarms. There is anarchy.”
Other Cuenca residents expressed their surprise at the TV station’s seizure to AFP.
“In Ecuador, we have never seen this kind of thing, where a channel has been practically hijacked and a broadcast starts with shootings, with kidnappings,” Francisco Rosas said. “So, what level of security are we operating in? And consider restaurants or retail establishments if a television station can experience this kind of robbery and insecurity, just think about it.”
Violent conflicts between incarcerated members of rival gangs have plagued the nation’s prisons in recent years, frequently culminating in multiple massacres of prisoners.
A formidable prison gang known as the Choneros is believed to be responsible for a large number of the violent outbursts and altercations that have broken out in Ecuador’s prisons in recent years.
It is believed that Fito fled a few hours before his scheduled transfer. On suspicion of aiding him in his escape, two prison guards are under arrest.
His flight also represents a setback to President Noboa’s administration, which took office in November following the election marred by the murder of journalist and presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio.
Shortly before Villavicencio was shot and killed in Quito while leaving a campaign rally, he had reported receiving death threats from Fito.