A clash between rival drug gangs in Brazil triggered one of the bloodiest prison riots in recent history.
The riot began late Sunday at Anísio Jobim Prison Complex in the Amazonas city of Manaus and ended Monday morning, with 56 dead. As violence exploded in the one complex, a mass jailbreak occurred at another Manaus prison, the Antonio Trindade Penal Institute, where an estimated 184 criminals escaped.
40 prisoners were captured by Monday afternoon, reports Reuters.
The violence was caused by a confrontation between the Familia do Norte (FDN) and the Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC) gangs, CNN revealed. The conflict was reportedly linked to the drug trade inside the prison.
Inmates exchanged gunfire with police. Seventy-four prisoners and around a dozen prison guards were taken hostage during the recent crisis.
At least six people were even decapitated, and the bodies of the dead, including some of the severed heads, were thrown over the prison walls.
Some observers called the massacre a “revenge killing,” and others said it was a fight over money. The FDN reportedly attacked PCC inmates at the request of the Rio de Janeiro-based Red Command (CV) drug gang, the country’s second largest drug gang.
A truce between the PCC and the CV was broken last year, leading to a number of brutal engagements.
The riots were the result of “no government in 20 years giving much attention to the penitentiary system,” Maria Canineu, director of Human Rights Watch for Brazil, told reporters.
The Anísio Jobim Prison Complex is extremely overcrowded, and Brazil overall has the fourth-largest prison population in the world. While the prison can only hold about 600 people, there were over 1,200 inmates there at the time of the riots.
The conditions inside Brazilian prisons are abysmal, and bloody outbursts are regular.
In January 2014, prisoners in a Brazilian prison rioted and decapitated three men. They held up the heads of their victims, “showing them off like trophies.”
In another riot that same year, two more prisoners were beheaded and another was thrown off the roof.
“These massacres occur almost daily in Brazil,” Father Valdir Silveira, director of Pastoral Carceraria, a Catholic center that monitors prison conditions in Brazil, told Reuters reporters. “Our prisons were built to annihilate, torture and kill.”
The latest riot showcased violence at levels unseen in decades. The latest riot is reportedly one of the worst prison massacres since 1992, when 111 people were killed.
The riot was “the worst massacre in the history of the state’s penitentiary system,” said Sergio Fontes, head of public security for the state of Amazonas.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my life, those bodies, the blood … stay with God!” said Luís Carlos Valois, a judge at the Amazonas Court of Justice and spokesman for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, who was at the prison where the killings occurred, said in a post on Facebook later.
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