A riot raged at Altamira prison in Brazil’s northern Para state on Monday morning which continued for five hours, killing atleast 57 people and around 15 beheaded.
Most of the victims died from asphyxiation and burned bodies because members of the Comando Classe A gang set fire to a cell where rival gang members from Comando Vermelho or “Red Command” were kept.
“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 prisoner said in a statement.
Two prison officers who were taken hostage have since been freed.
The riot broke out between two gangs at the Altamira Regional Recovery Center on Sunday and the violence spread throughout the Altamira jail at 7 a.m local time and ended at around noon on Monday.
“A local gang, aided by former inmates out on parole, smuggled guns into the prison and took 74 prisoners and 12 guards hostage,” said Sergio Fontes, the head of security in Amazonas state.
“This was one more chapter in the silent and imperious narco-trafficking war,” said Fontes.
Authorities are saying they didn’t get any prior warning or signs of an impending attack on this scale.
Violence in Brazilian prisons is not uncommon. The country has the world’s third-largest prison population of some 700,000 people, and overcrowding is a widespread problem.
“We witnessed the bloodiest night in the history of our state penitentiary system,” said Marco Aurelio Choy, the association’s president.
In 2017, Brazil’s two largest drug factions as local gangs went to war in Amazonas and that week of violence killed 150 prisoner.
The grisly riot is the latest deadly prison attack this year which killed At least 55 inmates in May during an attack in a lockup in the northern state of Amazonas.
Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s far-right President has vowed to bring in strict controls in prisons.
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