At least four Ecuadorian police officers have been kidnapped, and explosions have been reported in cities in the South American country Tuesday following the prison escape of Jose Adolfo Macias, the leader of the Los Choneros criminal organization.
The developments come as Ecuador’s prosecutors’ office charged two corrections officers in connection to the disappearance of Macias, who has been described by officials as “the most-wanted prisoner,” from a complex in Guayaquil on Sunday.
Three police officers were abducted from their station overnight in the city of Machala while a fourth was taken by a trio of criminals in the capital of Quito, where a pedestrian bridge also was targeted in a blast that caused no injuries, Reuters reports.
“Our specialized units are active with the goal of locating our colleagues and proceeding with the capture of the perpetrators,” police said, according to Reuters. “These acts will not remain in impunity.”
ECUADOR LAUNCHES MANHUNT AFTER ‘MOST-WANTED’ PRISONER VANISHES
On Monday, President Daniel Noboa announced a national state of emergency, a measure that lets authorities suspend people’s rights and mobilize the military in places such as prisons.
Without directly mentioning the 44-year-old gang leader’s disappearance, Noboa said in a message on Instagram that he would not stop until he “brings back peace to all Ecuadorians,” and that his government has decided to confront crime inside the prisons.
Ecuador’s prison authority also said Monday that some of its guards have been taken hostage at five prisons throughout the country, El Universo reports.
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Macias, who goes by the alias “Fito,” was serving a 34-year sentence for crimes including drug trafficking and murder.
Fernando Villavicencio, an Ecuadorian presidential candidate who was killed in August last year following a rally in the country’s capital of Quito, had accused Los Choneros and Macías of threatening him and his campaign team days before the assassination.
Los Choneros has been connected to extortion, murder and drug trafficking crimes in Ecuador, according to Reuters.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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