At least 100 people were killed during an outbreak of gang warfare in an Ecuadorian prison. Several of the victims were brutally beheaded, while the fatality count continues to climb as authorities search for additional bodies.

Violence broke out on Tuesday at the Penitenciaria del Litoral prison in Guayaquil, Ecuador. By Wednesday, at least 100 people were reported dead and 52 injured, according to the country’s prison bureau. The death toll initially stood at 30, however regional police commander Fausto Buenano noted that bodies found in the facility were still being identified.

Prisoners armed with guns, grenades and melee weapons murdered each other with extreme brutality, and six victims were found beheaded. After a five-hour operation, police using ‘non-lethal weapons’ managed to retake control of the prison, Buenano told journalists. 

Buenano said that his officers were attacked by armed prisoners, but did not say whether these officers killed or injured any prisoners. Video posted by the government of Guayas State showed a column of riot cops entering the prison, and six cooks being evacuated from the facility.

En este momento la @PoliciaEcuador logró la evacuación de 6 cocineros que se encontraban al interior de un pabellón cuando iniciaron los enfrentamientos. “Continuamos trabajando en operativo interinstitucional para recuperar el orden”, expresó el gobernador @parosemena.

Another police official, Fabian Bustos, said several weapons were seized after the raid.

Rival gangs vying for control in the prison are believed to be responsible for the battle, with Ecuadorian officials blaming the ‘Los Lobos’ and ‘Los Choneros’ groups. These outfits are two of the numerous gangs that operate in Ecuador’s overcrowded and often lawless prison system, with many groups linked to the Mexican Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels.

Tuesday’s bloodbath in Guayaquil was not an isolated incident. Two equally violent prison battles have broken out already this year, with a wave of rioting across the country’s prisons killing 22 in July, and a similar series of concerted violence leaving at least 75 people dead in February. The clashes came after the assassination of a Los Choneros leader triggered a power struggle between the country’s prison gangs.

Like this story? Share it with a friend!