Scores killed in Brazil prison riot; 16 decapitated
A bloody clash between prison gangs in Para state leaves at least 57 inmates dead with 16 of them decapitated.
At least 57 prisoners have been killed by other inmates during clashes between organized crime groups at the Altamira prison in northern Brazil, according to officials.
Para state prison authorities said 16 of the victims were decapitated during Monday’s incident, while others suffocated after the prison buildings were set on fire.
The fight between rival groups erupted around 7 am local time (10:00 GMT), between the Rio de Janeiro-based Comando Vermelho and a local criminal group known as Comando Classe A.
“Leaders of the [Comando Classe A] set fire to a cell belonging to one of the prison’s pavilions, where members of the [Comando Vermelho] were located,” the statement read.
State prisons chief Jarbas Vasconcelos said the fire had spread rapidly, with inmates held in old container units that had been adapted for the prison while another building is under construction. The fire prevented police forces from entering the building for several hours, he told a news conference.
Two prison staff members were held hostage but eventually released.
“It was a targeted attack. The aim was to show that it was a settling of accounts between the two groups, not a protest or rebellion against the prison system,” Vasconcelos said.
No firearms were found at the scene, but improvised knives appear to have been used in the turf war, according to prison authorities.
Brazilian TV stations showed footage of thick black smoke rising from the prison compound and people sitting on the roof of a building.
Other images showed flames inside a building that almost reached the ceiling and people, apparently prisoners, sitting on the ground outside.
Some of the bodies had not yet been recovered due to the heat inside some of the prison structures.
The Ministry of Justice and Public Security said ringleaders of the violence would be transferred to federal jails, which are more secure. About 311 prisoners were being held at the jail, which the department said was not overcrowded. It reportedly has a capacity for 200 inmates.
The killings echoed violence in May when 55 inmates died in a series of riots in several prisons in the neighboring state of Amazonas.
In early 2017, more than 120 inmates died in prisons across several northern states when rival gangs clashed over control of drug-trafficking routes in the region. The violence lasted several weeks, spreading to various states.
Source Scores killed in Brazil prison riot; 16 decapitated