A fight between rival gangs in a Brazilian prison has left 56 people dead and officials hunting an unknown number of inmates that escaped during the bloody confrontation.
Authorities said the riot grew out of a fight between two of the country’s biggest crime gangs over control of prisons and drug routes in northern Brazil.
Amazonas authorities initially reported 60 dead in the Anisio Jobim Penitentiary Complex in Manaus, but later the state public security secretary’s office reduced that figure to 56.
Officials also said 112 inmates escaped during the riot.
There were 1224 inmates in the prison, which was built to hold 592, Amazonas state public security’s office said.
The prison is run by a private company that is paid according to the number of inmates.
Twelve prison guards were held hostage by the inmates, though none was wounded during the riot that began on Sunday afternoon and ended on Monday morning.
This is the biggest prison massacre in our state’s history.”
Public security secretary Sergio Fontes
“What happened here is another chapter of the war that narcos are waging on this country and it shows that this problem cannot be tackled only by state governments.”
Mr Fontes confirmed that many of the dead had been beheaded.
The secretary said officers found a hole in a prison wall through which weapons entered the building.
A policeman was wounded in exchange of gunfire with the inmates.
Several firearms were found when police searched the prison after the riot.
Two other prisons in Manaus also reported riots, one on Sunday and another on Monday.
At one, 72 prisoners escaped, including an inmate who posted a picture of himself on Facebook as he left.Authorities said that of the 184 inmates who escaped Amazonas prisons on the last two days, only 40 had been recaptured.
Amazonas police were investigating whether there was a link between the violence at the three prisons.
By evening, Amazonas state police said the situation was stable in all three prisons.
‘I never saw anything like that in my life’
Judge Luis Carlos Valois, who negotiated the end of the Anisio Jobim Penitentiary Complex riot with inmates, said he saw many bodies that had been quartered.
I never saw anything like that in my life. All those bodies, the blood.”
Judge Valois on Facebook.
It was the largest death toll during a Brazilian prison riot since the killing of 111 inmates by police officers in the Carandiru penitentiary in Sao Paulo in 1992.
The riot ended after the inmates freed the last of the 12 prison staffers they had held hostage, Mr Valois said.
Mr Valois said that during the negotiations at Anisio Jobim, inmates asked only “that we did not transfer them, made sure they were not attacked and kept their visitation” rights.
Mr Fontes also said the inmates made few demands to end the riot, saying that hinted at a killing spree organised by members of a local gang, the Family of the North, against those of the First Command of the Capital (PCC) that is based in Sao Paulo.
The PCC is the most powerful drug and prison gang in Brazil and it has been trying to extend its reach to northern prisons dominated by the Family of the North.
To counter this expansion, Family of the North has associated with the Red Commando of Rio de Janeiro, the second biggest crime gang in Brazil.