Workers lie on the floor as hooded and armed people take over a tv studio of Ecuador's TV station TC during a live broadcast [Source: Reuters]
Ecuador faced a string of violent incidents on Tuesday, including the on-air invasion of a TV station by gunmen, as President Daniel Noboa named 22 gangs as terrorist organizations and military targets.
Police arrested 13 gunmen who took over television station TC during a live broadcast, while elsewhere at least seven police officers were kidnapped and there were several explosions around the country.
Noboa, who took office in November promising to stem drug trade-related violence, declared a 60-day state of emergency on Monday in response to prison violence – including hostage-takings of guards by inmates – and the apparent escape of Los Choneros gang leader Adolfo Macias over the weekend.
In a revised decree on Tuesday, Noboa recognized an “internal armed conflict” and identified nearly two dozen gangs as terrorist groups, including Los Choneros.
The government has said the violence is a reaction to Noboa’s plan to build a new high security prison and transfer jailed gang leaders.
All the groups mentioned in Noboa’s decree are now military targets, Vela added.
Prison transfers of major leaders have historically led to violence. Hundreds of inmates have been killed in recent years.
The unrest in Ecuador led Peru’s government to declare an emergency along its border with Ecuador, while Brazil, Colombia and Chile expressed their support for the Ecuadorean government.