Gunmen stormed the set of Public Television (TC) in Guayaquil (southwest Ecuador) on Tuesday afternoon, taking journalists and other staff hostage, images broadcast live by the channel.
“Don't shoot, please don't shoot!” a woman shouts amid the gunfire, while the attackers, armed with pistols, rifles and some with homemade grenades, beat panic-stricken people and forced them to the ground. One of them is hooded and the others are wearing hoods and caps. Still others have their faces exposed or are filming themselves on their mobile phones, while many of them are making the usual two-fingered sign of the gangs linked to the drug trade that reigns terror in Ecuador.
“They came to kill us, my God save us,” one of the captured journalists sent an AFP reporter in a WhatsApp message. Complaints can be heard in the background. In between shots, the broadcast of these surreal images continues live for several minutes, even when the lights on the set are turned off and the camera freezes. Until the police intervened, shouting “police, police”.
“National police units (…) have been alerted to this crime and are already on the scene,” police said in a message to reporters. With this new shocking incident, the outcome of which is still unknown, the security crisis reached its peak, three days later, the escape of a dangerous gang leader, riots in prisons, the declaration of a state of emergency and, in particular, the kidnapping of police officers.
“These are very difficult days,” Presidential Communications Secretary Roberto Izurieta commented on Tuesday as the administration made the “important decision to fight head-on against these terrorist threats.” The crisis began on Sunday with the spectacular escape of Adolfo Macias, 44-year-old “Fito”, the leader of “Coneros”. According to experts, the gang of about 8,000 men has become a major player in Ecuador's thriving drug trade. .
His escapes included several riots and hostage-taking of guards at various prisons, all of which were broadcast through horrifying videos on social networks showing masked inmates being held captive by knives. President Noboa, 36, the youngest president in Ecuador's history, declared a 60-day state of emergency across Ecuador on Monday. Thus the army is empowered to maintain order on the streets (with a night curfew) and in prisons.
So far with apparently little effect: seven police officers were abducted during the night from Monday to Tuesday. Incidents of explosions were also reported where the police station, the house of the President of the National Court and vehicles were torched. The local press spoke of a “night of terror” and a “defeat situation”.
At least ten people have died
Drug-trafficking-related violence in Ecuador has been declared a state of “internal armed conflict” by President Daniel Nobo, with at least 10 people dead, including two police officers, according to initial reports, police said on Tuesday evening.
Eight people died and three were injured in the port city of Guayaquil (southwest), a stronghold of drug-trafficking gangs, the local police chief told a press conference. Two officers were “brutally killed by armed criminals” in the nearby town of Nobol, police said on social network X.
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