At least 68 prisoners have been killed in new fighting at an Ecuadorean prison where more than a hundred inmates died in clashes between rival gangs in September, officials say.
The riot at the Litoral Penitentiary in Guayaquil, Ecuador, is said to have started on Friday evening.
According to reports, police tactical units who entered the prison buildings discovered guns, explosives, and blades.
Officials say they have re-gained control of the jail.
Nearly 300 inmates have died so far this year in the country’s prisons, and September’s gang-related violence was the worst in Ecuador’s history.
Some 119 inmates lost their lives during a riot in the Litoral Penitentiary on 28 September.
The latest fighting at the prison in Guayaquil, Guayas province, has also injured 25 people and comes after a smaller armed clash earlier this month in which three inmates were killed.
There were reports of additional violence at the prison later that day, and soldiers were deployed as reinforcements, securing the facility’s perimeter in armoured vehicles.
Families and friends of prisoners gathered outside the building, where a list of victims’ names was taped to a post.
“They are human beings, help them,” read one of the families’ banners.
According to authorities, the violence began as a territorial dispute between rival gangs following the early release of a gang leader.
“Because this section of the prison lacked a ringleader, other gangs attempted to… enter to carry out a total massacre,” Guayas province governor Pablo Arosemena told reporters.
According to him, there were approximately 700 prisoners in the area of the facility where the deadly riot was taking place.
President Guillermo Lasso issued a brief statement on Twitter, expressing his condolences to “the families who have lost loved ones” and calling for new measures to “fight the mafias that profit from chaos.”
On September 28, inmates from one wing of the prison crawled through a hole to gain access to another wing, where they attacked members of rival gangs. Hundreds of officers and soldiers from the army were deployed to retake control of the complex.
The deadly fight, which resulted in the decapitation of some inmates, drew attention to the growing influence in Ecuador of transnational crime gangs such as the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels based in Mexico.
Mr Lasso insisted earlier this month in a BBC interview that his government was regaining control not only of the prisons but also of areas of Ecuador where drug traffickers had established a foothold.
He accused previous governments of being “passive” in dealing with drug trafficking, but warned that combating rising drug use in the country would take “more than a decade.”
He also stated that Ecuador would require international assistance from neighbouring Colombia, the United States, and the European Union to strengthen its armed forces and police in order to combat the growing influence of crime gangs.
According to officials, Ecuador’s prisons are currently housing approximately 9,000 more prisoners than they were designed to hold. The Litoral Penitentiary was built for 5,300 inmates but now houses 8,500.