Gunmen Storm Ecuadorian TV Station, Broadcasting Threats and Fear Live

GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador (AP) — A shocking incident unfolded at the TC Television studio in Guayaquil, Ecuador, as masked gunmen stormed in during a live broadcast, causing panic and fear. The assailants, armed with pistols and shotguns, interrupted the mid-afternoon newscast and ordered the station employees to lie down. Screams and gunshots could be heard as the attackers threatened the terrified staff members. The dramatic scene was broadcast live for about 15 minutes before the transmission was cut.

The attack on the TV station came amidst a series of other violent incidents and police officer abductions in Ecuador. It followed the reported escapes from prison of two leaders of powerful criminal gangs. President Daniel Noboa, who came to power in November with a pledge to bring peace to the country, declared that Ecuador had entered an “internal armed conflict.” Some experts view this as a turning point for the nation.

Authorities have stated that the 13 attackers were apprehended and will face charges of terrorism. President Noboa and his security Cabinet met to discuss the attacks, with the head of the Armed Forces Joint Command describing the events as “unprecedented” in Ecuador’s history.

The wave of violence began after the escape of gang leader Adolfo Macías, also known as Fito, from prison. In response, President Noboa declared a state of emergency, granting authorities the power to suspend rights and deploy the military. On Tuesday, the president designated 20 drug-trafficking gangs as terrorist groups and authorized the military to “neutralize” them in accordance with international laws.

The government has reported at least 30 attacks since Macías’ escape. Another gang leader, Fabricio Colón Pico, of the Los Lobos group, also escaped from a prison in Riobamba. The Los Choneros gang, responsible for a spike in violence connected to drug trafficking, is believed to have ties with Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel. Macías’ whereabouts remain unknown, and an investigation has been initiated to determine whether he escaped the facility or is hiding within it.

Ecuador, located on the Pacific coast of South America, has become a significant transit point for drugs, making it a hotspot for clashes between drug gangs and the government. The violence aims to control ports and smuggling routes. The country’s challenges with drug trafficking have escalated in recent years due to its proximity to major cocaine-producing countries such as Peru and Colombia.

Authorities are focused on addressing these security concerns and apprehending the escapees to restore peace and stability in Ecuador. The incidents have drawn national attention and highlighted the urgent need for structural changes to effectively counter crime and ensure public safety.

Associated Press writer Gonzalo Solano contributed to this report from Quito, Ecuador.