The death toll from a riot at a women’s prison in Honduras has risen to 46, the government says, as relatives queued at the capital’s public morgue for information about incarcerated family members.
The number of victims ticked up as authorities identified more prisoners’ remains, many of which were “charred or reduced” to ash, according to Yuri Mora, representative for the public prosecutor’s office.
The violent incident on Tuesday at the 900-woman prison 20km from capital Tegucigalpa had been planned by gang members with guards’ knowledge, Honduran President Xiomara Castro said on Twitter.
The clash took place when armed members of the Barrio 18 gang held back guards and attacked members of the rival Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), police spokesman Miguel Martinez said on local television.
The gangs, which both have roots in Los Angeles in the United States, have long battled for control of the drug trafficking and extortion industries, with the bloody conflict making Central America one of the world’s most dangerous regions.
The riot was likely in reaction to a government crackdown in recent months on corruption within prisons, head of the penal system Julissa Villanueva said on Tuesday, describing the riot as a “terrorist attack”.
Measures to combat organised crime are set to be announced on Wednesday, according to Castro’s office.
Since December, Honduras’ government has implemented a state of exception, following a model pursued by neighbour El Salvador, which suspends some constitutional rights and allows security forces to detain people who they consider are associated with crime.