Ecuador prison staff held hostage by inmates all freed

Prison authorities say 158 guards and 20 administrative staffers were held by inmates in at least seven prisons.

Prison officials being held hostage by inmates leave in a pick-up truck upon being released from Machala prison, Ecuador [Ariel Suarez/AFP]

All prison staff who were seized as hostages during prison riots in Ecuador amid a sharp uptick in violence have been freed, according to prison authorities.

“Security protocols and the joint work of the police and the national army enabled the release of all the hostages who were being held in various prisons across the country,” SNAI prison authorities said in a statement on the social media platform X on Saturday.

The hostages, which SNAI previously said were 158 prison guards and 20 administrative staffers, had been held hostage since last Monday, in at least seven prisons amid an escalating security crisis in the South American country.

Images broadcast by the police showed the guards, many in tears, exhausted and supported by their colleagues shortly after their release.

“We are released … Thank God we all got out safely,” a prison employee said in a video posted on social media, waving the Ecuadorian flag and standing in front of one prison in southern Cotopaxi province.

President Daniel Noboa congratulated SNAI, police and armed forces for the successful release of the prison staff, in a statement on X.

Ecuador is grappling with a security crisis that worsened this week with the on-air storming of a TV station, unexplained explosions in several cities and the kidnapping of police officers.

The increase in violence began after President Noboa announced a state of emergency following the prison escape of Ecuador’s most powerful narco boss – the Los Choneros gang leader, Adolfo Macias – over the weekend.

At least 19 people have died in the violence, including civilians, prison guards and police in the last week, according to SNAI authorities.

Earlier on Saturday, SNAI also reported incidents at several prisons, including an armed confrontation with inmates at the prison in El Oro province that resulted in the death of a guard.

There would be an investigation to determine those responsible for the hostage-taking, SNAI added in its statement.

The police and the armed forces are also continuing to carry out security operations around the country. More than 1,000 people have been arrested since a state of emergency began.

Source: News Agencies