All prison staff held hostage by inmates in Ecuador now free, officials say
All hostages, including prison guards and administrative staff, have been released from captivity by inmates across Ecuadorian correctional facilities, according to the national prisons agency (SNAI).
These individuals are now receiving medical checks, and investigations into the incident are underway. Although SNAI hasn't disclosed the total number freed, there were 133 guards and three staff reported as hostages earlier that day, with at least 41 previously released.
Ecuador's President Daniel Noboa applauded the successful release efforts by the SNAI, armed forces, and national police. The resolution involved freeing hostages from prisons in Esmeraldas and Tungurahua provinces, facilitated by the Catholic Church. However, in a clash at an El Oro prison, one guard was killed and another injured.
This series of events is part of a surge in nation-wide violence, including bombings and police abductions. Fear has gripped Ecuadorians, a concern amplified by the recent live TV broadcast attack by armed assailants, which left two injured.
Ecuador, once a bastion of tranquility and a popular tourist destination, is experiencing growing unrest, particularly following the escape of notorious gang leader Adolfo "Fito" Macías from a Guayaquil prison.
Leader of the powerful Los Choneros gang and linked to international drug trafficking, Fito's jailbreak has led to a declared state of emergency.
Prison gangs often dominate the overcrowded prisons, and despite the authorities' efforts, controlling them remains a challenge. Over 3,000 law enforcement officers are hunting for Fito, with his exact escape timing still unknown.
Late presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, before his murder last year, had accused Fito of threats and labeled Ecuador a "narco state," pledging to tackle the pervasive gang-related crime and corruption.