Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno said more than 50 people had been killed when inmates in a prison in the country’s northwest rampaged over a cell phone ban and a court decision to reduce prisoner sentences.
A man who identified himself as one of the victims told reporters the attack began shortly after midnight local time.
Moreno said the attack started with rioting and took off from there, with inmates throwing grenades at staff and each other, tossing grenades at hostages and shooting others.
“There were children and women there, also people who were injured,” he said.
Authorities have begun identifying the dead, he said. Moreno declared three days of national mourning.
During the riot, prisoners freed 107 of the country’s 668 inmates from another part of the prison in Orellana, he said.
They are now in a nearby town, Moreno said.
The riot was the latest of a series of bloody clashes between law enforcement and inmates in Ecuador.
Last month, dozens of people were injured in fighting at a prison in Guayaquil.
The assaults come as the country’s economy is struggling, with inflation rising 9.7 percent last year.
The national penitentiary authority said last week in a statement that as many as 2,500 prison inmates were going to be moved out of the facilities because they were becoming overcrowded.
Morales’ government reduced its fiscal deficit last year by more than $700 million after taking on high international debt.
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