Authorities in Ecuador believe jailed gang leaders linked to international drug cartels were the targets of an explosives attack on a prison Monday by three drones. The attempt marks another and potentially deadly way that the craft are being used to access penitentiaries around the world.
Drone trio drops explosives in prison attack presumably targeting rival gang leaders
Officials say the attack took place early Monday, when three drones dropped their explosives payloads on the roof of a prison facility in Guayaquil. According to a tweet posted by Ecuador’s penitentiary administration, the strike hit the Regional Guayas 4 rehabilitation center next to the main prison holding most inmates. Included among those are members and leaders of gangs affiliated with rival international drug cartels, particularly those in Mexico, which may now be using drones to strike at one another.
“This morning, Regional Guayas 4 was attacked with drones from the outside,” the administration’s tweet said. “There were 3 explosions, causing damage to the roofs of the center. The attack would be directed at the leaders of the gangs. It is serious, we are in the middle of a war between INTERNATIONAL CARTELS.”
Various reports suggest the targets were probably convicts inside the main prison, with the rehabilitation annex perhaps having been struck by error. Either way, accounts describe inmates clambering onto both rooftops and firing at the trio of drones – a purported reaction that raises serious questions about security inside the jail. After order had been restored, officials said the blasts had done damage to roof structures and ceilings of certain cells, but that no injuries or deaths had occurred.
Increasing, diversifying use of drones to access prisons worldwide
While offering no other information on the craft themselves, authorities said the drones flown were easily obtainable models whose payload devices were adaptable to carrying explosives used in the attack. Weaponization of the vehicles in an atmosphere of escalating gang violence is only the most recent way uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV) have been flown to access prisons in Ecuador, and around the world.
Reports indicate there have been at least eight cases of drones dropping contraband – usually drugs – into Ecuadorian prisons this year alone. Just last June, a UAV crashed while conducting a flight over the same Guayaquil prison attacked Monday – a high-security facility that has no anti-drone protections in place. Chile and Colombia have also reported aerial deliveries of banned material into their jails, with similar activity underway and growing in the US, Canada, and Europe.
The deployment of drones with explosives to attack prisons has officials in Ecuador worried about the potential consequences that spreading cartel warfare might hold. Violence in the country’s over-crowded jails have already left 120 inmates dead this year, and hundreds more wounded. That carnage is bad enough, they say, without violence also raining from above.
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