(Fox News) -Ecuador’s prison commissioner on Sunday identified the bodies of nearly 70 inmates killed in a brawl early Friday as well as the victims of an attack on a radio station a day earlier that officials blamed on Maoist inmates.
The commissioner, Alessandro Orlandini, said the 70 bodies recovered from the incident Friday in the middle-class neighborhood of San Antonio de los Altos were all of prisoners killed at the prison, while three of the victims were radio journalists killed during the assault on them.
Authorities suspect that the Maoists, who oppose the rule of President Lenin Moreno, may have launched the attack to avenge the deaths of five Maoist activists on Thursday, when thousands of security forces descended on two prison complexes in response to the deadly riot.
“We are in the middle of a complex incident,” Moreno said at the weekend, adding that the officers involved in the killings would be punished.
The conflict began Thursday afternoon when groups of inmates began fighting outside one of the prisons in El Libertador and police battled the assailants inside.
About 1,000 rioters then charged inside, quickly overpowering guards and taking control of the complex. After more than an hour, authorities declared a state of emergency and sent police reinforcements.
Hours later, the Maoists were blamed for attacking Radio Caracol, located inside the prison complex, the Information Minister told reporters. The station employees were killed while preparing to broadcast a live discussion between a former prisoner who blamed the disturbance on the Maoists and other prisoners who authorities said were involved in the attack.
Twelve other people also were killed in the clashes on Thursday.
Raul Correa, a Maoist activist and leader of the Independiente Patriótico en Acción Evo Libre, or Radio Patriotic, said he and his fellow inmates are being mistreated by prison authorities, an allegation that was denied by Orlandini.
Orlandini said the victims killed in the radio attack were members of two rival prison gangs that committed more than 50 murders between them.
The commissioner said 21 inmates were taken prisoner and another five were recovering from their injuries.
The riots highlighted flaws in Ecuador’s prison system, where under-staffing has led to the death of more than 200 inmates since 2016.
Moreno, a former vice president who took office in 2017, has announced plans to modernize the prison system, including increasing funding, improving conditions and adopting more rehabilitative programs.
While the state of emergency in the two prisons runs until Nov. 15, Moreno has announced plans to start moving more prisoners outside the two prison complexes once the truce is declared.