At least 116 dead in gang battle at Ecuador jail; 5 beheaded

Family members of inmates wait at the Penitenciaria del Litoral jail after prisoners died and others were injured in a riot in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on Sept. 28, 2021. (REUTERS)
1 / 5
Family members of inmates wait at the Penitenciaria del Litoral jail after prisoners died and others were injured in a riot in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on Sept. 28, 2021. (REUTERS)
Mounted policemen stand guard outside a prison in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on Sept. 29, 2021, after a riot occurred. (AFP)
2 / 5
Mounted policemen stand guard outside a prison in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on Sept. 29, 2021, after a riot occurred. (AFP)
Members of the Colombian Army stand guard outside a prison in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on Sept. 29, 2021, after a riot occurred. (Photo by Fernando Mendez / AFP)
3 / 5
Members of the Colombian Army stand guard outside a prison in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on Sept. 29, 2021, after a riot occurred. (Photo by Fernando Mendez / AFP)
Relatives of inmates speak with a soldier as they wait for information outside a prison in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on Sept. 29, 2021, after a riot occurred. (AFP)
4 / 5
Relatives of inmates speak with a soldier as they wait for information outside a prison in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on Sept. 29, 2021, after a riot occurred. (AFP)
Soldiers frisk a policeman at the entrance of a prison in Guayaquil, Ecuador on Sept. 29, 2021. (Photo by Fernando Mendez / AFP)
5 / 5
Soldiers frisk a policeman at the entrance of a prison in Guayaquil, Ecuador on Sept. 29, 2021. (Photo by Fernando Mendez / AFP)
Short Url
Updated 30 September 2021

At least 116 dead in gang battle at Ecuador jail; 5 beheaded

At least 116 dead in gang battle at Ecuador jail; 5 beheaded
  • President Lasso decreed a state of emergency in Ecuador’s prison system to take control
  • Bloodshed blamed on gangs linked to international drug cartels fighting for control of the lockup

QUITO, Ecuador: A battle between gangs in a prison killed at least 116 people and injured 80 in what authorities are calling the worst penitentiary massacre in Ecuador’s history. At least five dead were reported beheaded, officials said Wednesday.
President Guillermo Lasso decreed a state of emergency in Ecuador’s prison system, allowing the government to deploy the police and soldiers to penitentiaries among other powers. Authorities attributed Tuesday’s bloodshed at the Litoral penitentiary in the coastal city of Guayaquil to gangs linked to international drug cartels fighting for control of the lockup.
Lasso, visibly affected, said at a news conference that what was happening in the Guayaquil prison was “bad and sad” and he could not for the moment guarantee that authorities had regained control of the lockup.
“It is regrettable that the prisons are being turned into territories for power disputes by criminal gangs,” he said, adding that he would act with “absolute firmness” to regain control of the Litoral prison and prevent the violence from spreading to other penitentiaries.
Images circulating on social media showed dozens of bodies in the prison’s Pavilions 9 and 10 and scenes that looked like battlefields. The fighting was with firearms, knives and bombs, officials said. Earlier, regional police commander Fausto Buenaño had said that bodies were being found in the prison’s pipelines.
Outside the prison morgue, the relatives of inmates wept, with some describing to reporters the cruelty with which their loved ones were killed, decapitated and dismembered.
“In the history of the country, there has not been an incident similar or close to this one,” said Ledy Zúñiga, the former president of Ecuador’s National Rehabilitation Council.
Zúñiga, who was also the country’s minister of justice in 2016, said she regretted that steps had not been taken to prevent another massacre following deadly prison riots last February.
Earlier, officials said the violence erupted from a dispute between the “Los Lobos” and “Los Choneros” prison gangs.
Col. Mario Pazmiño, the former director of Ecuador’s military intelligence, said the bloody fighting shows that “transnational organized crime has permeated the structure” of Ecuador’s prisons, adding that Mexico’s Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels operate through local gangs.
“They want to sow fear,” he told The Associated Press on Wednesday, urging the government to temporarily cede control of the prisons to the National Police. “The more radical and violent the way they murder,” the more they achieve their goal of control, he added.
Ecuador’s president said that care points had been set up for relatives of the inmates with food and psychological support. He added that a $24 million program to address the country’s prisons will be accelerated, starting with investments in infrastructure and technology in the Litoral prison.
The former director of Ecuador’s prison bureau, Fausto Cobo, said that inside penitentiaries authorities face a “threat with power equal to or greater than the state itself.” He said that while security forces must enter prisons with shields and unarmed, they are met by inmates with high-caliber weapons.
In July, the president decreed another state of emergency in Ecuador’s prison system following several violent episodes that resulted in more than 100 inmates being killed. Those deaths occurred in various prisons and not in a single facility like Tuesday’s massacre.
Previously, the bloodiest day occurred in February, when 79 prisoners died in simultaneous riots in three prisons in the country. In July, 22 more prisoners lost their lives in the Litoral penitentiary, while in September a penitentiary center was attacked by drones leaving no fatalities.


Britain’s Queen Elizabeth attends opening of London Tube line

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth attends opening of London Tube line
Updated 8 sec ago

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth attends opening of London Tube line

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth attends opening of London Tube line
LONDON: Britain’s Queen Elizabeth on Tuesday made a surprise appearance at a ceremony to mark the completion of a long-awaited London Tube line named in her honor.
Elizabeth, wearing a bright yellow hat and coat and using a walking stick, unveiled a plaque at Paddington Station. She was joined by her son Edward and Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
It is the latest public outing for the 96-year-old monarch who, despite missing a speech in parliament last week due to mobility issues, twice attended a horse show at her Windsor Castle residence in recent days.
“In a happy development Her Majesty The Queen is attending today’s event to mark the completion of the Elizabeth line,” a Buckingham Palace spokesperson said.
The $24 billion rail project was originally due to be opened in December 2018, but had been repeatedly delayed by issues with safety testing and signalling systems, even before the onset of the pandemic.
Originally named ‘Crossrail’, the Elizabeth line will connect destinations west of London, including Heathrow airport and Reading with Shenfield in the east. It will open to the public on May 24.
Elizabeth has been seen in public on only a few occasions after she spent a night in hospital last October for an unspecified illness, after which she was told to rest by her doctors.
She has since carried out duties either remotely or in person at her Windsor Castle home and did not attend last week’s state opening of parliament.

Japan congratulates Somalia on electing a new president

Japan congratulates Somalia on electing a new president
Updated 48 min 31 sec ago

Japan congratulates Somalia on electing a new president

Japan congratulates Somalia on electing a new president

TOKYO: Japan on Monday congratulated Somalia on electing Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as a new president, and said it hopes Somalia will be able to make further progress in consolidating peace in the country. 

The foreign ministry in Tokyo said that in light of the 8th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 8), which will be held this year, Japan will continue its support for peace and stability in Somalia in collaboration with the international community.

This story was originally published on Arab News Japan


Japan condemns Israel for its illegal settlement construction

Japan condemns Israel for its illegal settlement construction
Updated 17 May 2022

Japan condemns Israel for its illegal settlement construction

Japan condemns Israel for its illegal settlement construction

TOKYO: The Japanese government deplored Israel’s decision to advance plans to construct over 4,000 housing units in settlements on the occupied territories in the West Bank and urged Israel to reverse the decision and fully freeze its settlement activities.

“The Government of Japan remains seriously concerned by and deeply deplores the continued settlement activities by the government of Israel despite repeated calls from Japan and the international community,” an official statement by the foreign ministry said.

Japan stressed that Israel’s illegal settlement plans “violates the international law and undermine the viability of a two-state solution” and called on the Israelis to refrain from actions that escalate tensions.

This story was originally published on Arab News Japan


North Korea mobilizes army, steps up tracing amid COVID-19 wave

North Korea mobilizes army, steps up tracing amid COVID-19 wave
Updated 17 May 2022

North Korea mobilizes army, steps up tracing amid COVID-19 wave

North Korea mobilizes army, steps up tracing amid COVID-19 wave
  • Isolated country is grappling with its first acknowledged COVID-19 outbreak
  • The WHO has warned the virus may spread rapidly in North Korea

SEOUL: North Korea has mobilized its military to distribute COVID-19 medications and deployed more than 10,000 health workers to help trace potential patients, as it fights a sweeping coronavirus wave, state media outlet KCNA said on Tuesday.
The isolated country is grappling with its first acknowledged COVID-19 outbreak, which it confirmed last week, fueling concerns over a major crisis due to a lack of vaccines and adequate medical infrastructure.
The state emergency epidemic prevention headquarters reported 269,510 more people with fever symptoms, bringing the total to 1.48 million, while the death toll grew by six to 56 as of Monday evening, KCNA said. It did not say how many people had tested positive for COVID-19.
The country has not started mass vaccinations and has limited testing capabilities, raising concerns that it may be difficult to assess how widely and rapidly the disease is spreading and verify the number of confirmed cases and deaths.
“The numbers are simply unreliable, but the sheer numbers of people having fever are worrisome,” said Lee Jae-gap, a professor of infectious diseases at Hallym University School of Medicine.
He said that the death count would surge over time, but that Pyongyang might be tempted to keep the publicly available numbers low to avoid a political crisis.
“I don’t think the North Korean regime can afford to release any surging death toll, which would sour public sentiment.”
Gauging COVID-19 deaths from outside North Korea would require comparing excess mortality figures long after the wave dies down, but the North does not conduct annual census studies, said Eom Joong-sik, a professor of infectious diseases at Gachon University Gil Medical Center in South Korea.
KCNA reported enhanced virus control efforts. It said “a powerful force” of the army’s medical corps was immediately deployed to improve the supply of medicines in the capital Pyongyang, the center of the epidemic, following an order by leader Kim Jong Un.
The team’s mission was aimed at “defusing the public health crisis” in Pyongyang, it said.
Some senior members of the ruling Workers’ Party’s powerful politburo visited pharmacies and medicine management offices to check supply and demand, KCNA said in another dispatch, after Kim criticized ineffective distribution of drugs.
“They called for establishing a more strict order in keeping and handling the medical supplies, maintaining the principle of prioritising the demand and convenience of the people in the supply,” KCNA said.
Tracing efforts were also intensified, with some 11,000 health officials, teachers and medical students joining an “intensive medical examination of all inhabitants” across the country to locate and treat people with fever.
Still, various sectors of the national economy are maintaining production and construction, while taking thorough anti-virus measures, KCNA added. Kim had ordered that limited activity be allowed in each city and county.
The World Health Organization has warned the virus may spread rapidly in North Korea, which had no vaccination program and declined international help.
Many of the medicines being distributed there are painkillers and fever reducers such as ibuprofen, and amoxicillin and other antibiotics — which do not fight viruses but are sometimes prescribed for secondary bacterial infections. Home remedies such as gargling salt water have also been encouraged.
South Korea offered working-level talks on Monday to send medical supplies, including vaccines, masks and test kits, as well as technical cooperation, but said the North had not acknowledged its message.
An official at Seoul’s Unification Ministry, which handles cross-border affairs, said on Tuesday that there had been no reply yet from the North but that the office plans to “wait without pressing for a response.”
The US State Department said it was concerned about the outbreak’s potential impact on North Koreans, and supports vaccine aid to the country.
“We strongly support and encourage the efforts of US and international aid and health organizations in seeking to prevent and contain the spread of COVID-19 ... and to provide other forms of humanitarian assistance to vulnerable groups in the country,” a spokesperson said.
The spokesperson confirmed that the US envoy for North Korea, Sung Kim, had a phone call with South Korea’s new nuclear negotiator, Kim Gunn, without elaborating.


Beijing locks down more people in China’s zero COVID-19 fight

Beijing locks down more people in China’s zero COVID-19 fight
Updated 17 May 2022

Beijing locks down more people in China’s zero COVID-19 fight

Beijing locks down more people in China’s zero COVID-19 fight
  • In Beijing, the number of cases has held steady but new clusters have popped up in different parts of the city

BEIJING: Authorities in Beijing restricted more residents to their homes on Tuesday in a now 3-week-long effort to control a small but persistent COVID-19 outbreak in the Chinese capital.
Seven adjoining areas in the city’s Fengtai district were designated lockdown zones for at least one week, with people ordered to stay at home in an area covering about 4 by 5 kilometers. The area is near a wholesale food market that was closed indefinitely on Saturday following the discovery of a cluster there.
The added restrictions come as Shanghai, China’s largest city, slowly starts to ease a citywide lockdown that has trapped most of its population for more than six weeks. The twin outbreaks in Beijing and Shanghai, the country’s most prominent cities, have focused attention on whether China can sustain its strict “zero-COVID” approach, as many other countries adapt to the fast-spreading omicron variant and ease restrictions.
China recorded 1,100 new cases on Monday, the National Health Commission said Tuesday. Of those, about 800 were in Shanghai and 52 were in Beijing. The daily number of new cases in Shanghai has declined steadily for more than two weeks, but authorities have been moved slowly to relax restrictions, frustrating residents.
In Beijing, the number of cases has held steady but new clusters have popped up in different parts of the city. City spokesperson Xu Hejian said that Beijing’s top priority is to screen people related to the cluster at the wholesale food market and isolate those who test positive. A second wholesale food market in Fengtai district was shut down Tuesday.
Most of Beijing is not locked down, but the streets are much quieter than usual with many shops closed and people working from home.