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Five die in Ecuador blast officials blame on crime gangs

Five people died and 16 were injured in an explosion Sunday in the Ecuadoran port city of Guayaquil in an attack the government blamed on organized crime, officials said.

Members of the National Police inspect the site of an explosion, which the Ecuadorean government attributes to organized crime, in southern Guayaquil, Ecuador, on August 14, 2022. – Five people died and 20 were injured in an explosion Sunday in the Ecuadoran port city of Guayaquil in an attack the government blamed on organized crime, officials said. (Photo by Marcos PIN / AFP)

Five people died and 16 were injured in an explosion Sunday in the Ecuadoran port city of Guayaquil in an attack the government blamed on organized crime, officials said.

President Guillermo Lasso declared a state of emergency in the country’s second largest city of Guayaquil, where eight houses and two cars were destroyed in the blast.

Lasso warned on Twitter that his year-old government would “not allow organized crime to try to control the country.”

The state of emergency will be in force from Sunday in the southwestern coastal city, and will last for 30 days, said security secretary Diego Ordonez at a press conference.

Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo said the five dead had been identified and none had a criminal record.

He also said that 17 were wounded in the blast, which he blamed on “organized-crime mercenaries,” long involved in illicit drug traffic.

“It is a declaration of war against the state,” Carrillo added on Twitter.

Located between Colombia and Peru, the world’s two largest cocaine producers, Ecuador is facing a drug-fueled crime wave that has produced scenes of horror, including decapitated bodies hanging from bridges.

Tensions between rival drug gangs have reached into Ecuador’s prisons, where clashes and massacres have claimed at least 400 lives since February 2021.

“Either we confront it (organized crime) together, or society will pay an even higher price,” Carrillo said.

Ecuador in 2020 accounted for 6.5 percent of all the cocaine seized in the world, according to the latest United Nations figures.

And last year, the nation of 18 million saw its murder rate — 14 homicides per 100,000 people — soar to nearly twice the 2020 rate.