Hooded gunmen have burst onto a live TV set in Ecuador – a day after the country’s president declared a state of emergency following the escape of one of the country’s most-notorious drug gang bosses from prison.
Live television images broadcast on Tuesday showed hooded people – some waving guns – inside Ecuador’s TC Television station in Guayaquil.
They were seen telling staff to lie down on the floor and shouted that they had “bombs”, while shouting and noises similar to gunshots could be heard in the background.
Some of the group gestured at the camera and someone could be heard yelling “no police”, before the broadcast feed was eventually cut.
The national police said on social media its specialised units had been deployed to the television station, before publishing footage of armed officers surrounding the building.
Ecuador’s attorney general’s office later said 13 people arrested for breaking into the studio will be charged with terrorism offences.
The charge holds a penalty of up to 13 years in prison under Ecuadorian law, if convicted.
National police commander Cesar Zapata told the TV channel Teleamazonas that all of those involved had been arrested and officers had seized a number of guns and explosives.
Alina Manrique, the head of news for TC Television, said she was in the control room across from the studio when the masked men entered the building.
One of the men pointed a gun at her head and told her to get on the floor, she said.
“I am still in shock,” Ms Manrique told the Associated Press (AP).
“Everything has collapsed. All I know is that it’s time to leave this country, and go very far away.”
The astonishing incident comes a day after Ecuador’s President Daniel Noboa declared a 60-day state of emergency after one of the country’s most-notorious drug gang bosses escaped from prison.
At least seven police officers have also been kidnapped, and there have been a series of explosions reported across the South American country.
Peru’s interior minister ordered the “immediate” deployment of a police border with Ecuador on Tuesday, in a bid to boost security.
Mr Noboa, the son of one of Ecuador’s richest men, took office in November promising to stem a wave of drug-related violence on the streets and in prisons.
The drug lord, Adolfo Macias – also known as Fito – was first reported missing from his cell on Sunday.
The leader of the Los Choneros gang was serving a 34-year sentence in La Regional prison for drug trafficking and murder.
His reported escape occurred on the same day he was scheduled to be transferred to a maximum security facility in the city of Guayaquil.
Ecuador‘s prosecutors have filed charges against two prison guards as part of their investigation into the alleged escape.
Los Choneros is one of the gangs authorities consider responsible for a spike in violence that reached new heights last year with the assassination of the presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio.
The gang has links with Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, according to authorities.
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Mr Villavicencio had claimed Los Choneros threatened him, but authorities have been unable to formally accuse Macias or his group of being behind the murder.
The state of emergency announced by Mr Noboa allows for the use of military patrols, on the streets and in prisons, and the setting of a national nighttime curfew.
It was updated on Tuesday, recognising an “internal armed conflict”, identifying several criminal gangs as terrorist groups, including Los Choneros, and ordering the armed forces to neutralise them.
Written by: Newsroom