Ecuador is at risk of tipping into civil war after a string of violent incidents in the South American country this week.
Last night, Armed police seized back control of a state-owned TV station after gunmen tried to hijack the channel and threatened to shoot presenters live on air.
President Daniel Noboa has now ordered the army to ‘neutralise’ 20 drug gangs with heavily armed mobsters parading hostages and threatening to execute anyone found on the streets at night.
At least 10 people have been killed while elsewhere and seven police officers were kidnapped, with several explosions reported around the country.
Noboa, who took office in November declared a 60-day state of emergency on Monday in response to prison violence including hostage-takings of guards by inmates and the apparent escape of Los Choneros gang leader Adolfo Macias over the weekend.
In a revised decree on Tuesday, Noboa recognized an “internal armed conflict” and identified nearly two dozen gangs as terrorist groups, including Los Choneros.
On Tuesday gangs stormed the state-owned TC Television in the port city of Guayaquil with a video showing them holding staff hostage for hours while pointing shotguns at their heads as they pleaded ‘please don’t shoot’.
Police were later able to re-seize control of the channel. They said their operation resulted in the confiscation of explosives and guns, and police social media posts showed young men with their hands zip-tied behind their backs kneeling on the floor.
“All hostages were freed … the perpetrators will confront justice and be sentenced for terrorist acts,” the police said on X.