Armed gang storms Ecuador TV studio after state of emergency declared

A live broadcast by Ecuadorean television station TC was interrupted by armed people who forced staff to lie and sit on the floor, as shots and yelling were heard.

The people, wearing balaclavas and largely dressed in black, were seen wielding large guns and accosting huddled staffers on the live feed, which eventually cut out on Tuesday.

Some of the invaders gestured at the camera and someone could be heard yelling “no police”.

Another channel showed images of police outside TC’s studios in Guayaquil.

Ecuador’s national police said on social media that its specialised units had been deployed to the site.

The incident came after at least seven police officers were kidnapped, explosions occurred in several cities and prison inmates seized dozens of guards as hostages, a day after President Daniel Noboa declared a state of emergency.

Noboa, a former legislator and son of one of the country’s richest men, took office in November on promises to fix the struggling economy and stem a wave of violence on the streets and in prisons, which has been growing for years.

Noboa declared the 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 disappearance of Adolfo Macias, leader of the criminal gang Los Choneros, from the prison where he was serving a 34-year sentence and unrest at six other prisons, including hostage-takings of prison guards.

Police and prosecutors have given scant information about Macias’s disappearance.

Three police officers working the night shift were taken from their station in the southern city of Machala, the police said on social media on Tuesday, while a fourth missing officer was taken by three people in Quito. Another three officers were kidnapped in Los Rios province 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 police said there were 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 recent incidents of prison violence on the president’s plan to build a new high-security prison and transfer jailed gang leaders.

The prisons agency has given no information about the guards who are being held hostage.

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