Seven police kidnapped in Ecuador as president declares security emergency | World News - Hindustan Times
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Seven police kidnapped in Ecuador as president declares security emergency

Reuters |
Jan 10, 2024 12:57 AM IST

The measure was a response to the apparent escape of Adolfo Macias, leader of the Los Choneros criminal gang.

At least seven police officers have been kidnapped in Ecuador by criminals, the police said on Tuesday, and authorities reported a series of explosions a day after President Daniel Noboa declared a state of emergency.

Soldiers check cars during a security operation on the alternative road to the Turi prison, in Cuenca, Ecuador, on January 9, 2024.(AFP)
Soldiers check cars during a security operation on the alternative road to the Turi prison, in Cuenca, Ecuador, on January 9, 2024.(AFP)

Noboa, son of one of the country's richest men, took office in November promising to stem a wave of drug trade-related violence on the streets and in prisons which has been growing for years.

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Noboa declared a 60-day state of emergency - a tool used by his predecessor to little success - on Monday, enabling military patrols, including in prisons, and setting a national nighttime curfew.

The measure was a response to the apparent escape of Adolfo Macias, leader of the Los Choneros criminal gang, from the prison where he was serving a 34-year sentence, and other recent prison incidents, including hostage-takings of guards.

Three police officers working the night shift were kidnapped in the southern city of Machala, police said on social media on Tuesday, while a fourth officer was taken by three criminals in Quito.

Another three officers were kidnapped in Los Rios province, police said later on Tuesday, after a patrol was hit by an explosive.

"These acts will not remain in impunity," said the police, who have given no details on whether the kidnappers have issued demands.

The municipal government for Quito said there had also been an "explosion" on a pedestrian bridge in the capital. The blast had caused no injuries, but the city government asked in a statement for reinforced security amid the "unprecedented" crisis.

A Reuters witness saw a greater-than-usual military presence around government buildings in central Quito.

The police said there were further explosions in the provinces of Esmeraldas and Los Rios, while the mayor's office in the city of Cuenca confirmed another and the attorney general's office said it was investigating one in Guayaquil. Local media have also reported explosions in Loja and Machala.

Authorities have not given a cause for any of the explosions and no one has claimed responsibility.

Noboa has said he will not negotiate with "terrorists" and the government has blamed the recent incidents of prison violence on Noboa's plan to build a new high security prison and transfer jailed gang leaders.

Prisons agency SNAI said a group of prisoners had also escaped from a penitentiary in Riobamba, including accused gang member Colon Pico, who was allegedly involved in an attack plot against the attorney general. Seventeen of the 39 escapees have been recaptured, the prosecutor's office said.

Some Ecuadoreans demanded action beyond the state of emergency.

"The previous government declared them and they were ineffective. Noboa needs to take more drastic measures, go out with the police and armed forces to impose order," said Marcelo Gordillo, 42. "He must take the bull by the horns."

Noboa plans to hold a plebiscite this year focused on security efforts.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia in Quito, additional reporting by Tito Correa and Karen ToroWriting by Julia Symmes CobbEditing by Tomasz Janowski and Rosalba O'Brien)

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