UPDATE 1-Ecuadorian Government confirms 62 dead after clashes in three prisons

(Add details, death toll)

QUITO, Feb 23 (.) – At least 62 people were killed Tuesday in violent clashes by criminal gangs simultaneously inside three jails in the country over a dispute over taking leadership inside prisons.

President Lenín Moreno has sought to control the situation of violence in the prisons of the Andean country, declaring the penitentiary system in a state of emergency temporarily, due to the frequent clashes between groups.

The director of the Comprehensive Care Service for Adults Deprived of Liberty, Edmundo Moncayo, told reporters that there were some 62 prisoners who died after the confrontations in the three prisons. The official explained that the events were caused by two groups that sought criminal leadership within the detention centers.

The victims belong to different groups in dispute, according to Moncayo.

The violent acts were registered in prisons located in the provinces of Guayas, Azuay and Cotopaxi, which account for about 70% of the country’s prison population, according to official data.

Some 800 policemen have mobilized to regain control of the prisons.

The government said there were wounded police officers, without giving further details.

Moreno said in his Twitter account that he ordered the Armed Forces a “strict control” of weapons, ammunition and explosives in the outer perimeters of prisons.

In Ecuador there are about 53 prisons, including centers for juvenile offenders, with a prison population of more than 37,500 people, according to official data.

(Report by Alexandra Valencia. Edited by Javier Leira and Rodrigo Charme)