The death toll is likely to increase as many of those injured were taken to hospital in a serious condition, Ecuadorian National Police commander General Fausto Salinas said at a press conference on Monday.
The riot broke out in the maximum security wing of the Social Bellavista rehabilitation center in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, a city located around 150 kilometers (around 93 miles) west of the capital Quito.
Salinas told reporters at least 112 inmates have been recaptured. Ecuador’s interior ministry said that authorities have regained control of the maximum-security wing of the facility.
One policeman was injured in the operation to retake control of the prison. Prison guards confiscated four rifles, four pistols, and four grenades from inmates during the operations, according to the Ecuadorian Police.
“My deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those who died in the riot in Sto. Domingo prison. This is an unfortunate result of gang violence,” Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso tweeted.
Ecuador’s prison system has been under a state of emergency since deadly clashes broke out in September 2021, when 118 people were killed in clashes that involved automatic weapons and even grenades.
More than 300 inmates were killed in prison violence in 2021, according to figures from Ecuador’s prison service SNAI.
Ecuador is a key transit point on the route that brings cocaine from South America to the US and Asia, which makes it fertile ground for gang clashes. In this escalating struggle for territorial control, prisons have become contested battlegrounds.
Prisons in the country are also chronically overcrowded. In July 2021, then-prison chief Eduardo Moncayo told local media that the Litoral Penitentiary in Guayaquil was the most overcrowded in the country, with more than 9,000 inmates in a facility planned for 5,000.
In October, authorities said thousands of inmates, including elderly people, women and those with disabilities and terminal illnesses, would be pardoned to free up space.