Officials: 60 inmates killed, many beheaded, in Brazil riot

© AFP. More than 50 people were killed in a prison riot in Brazil's Amazon region when fighting broke out between rival gangs, media reports
Rioting inmates in Brazil decapitated and brutally assaulted their rivals, killing at least 60, when fighting erupted between two gangs at a prison in the Amazon region, officials said Monday.

The 17-hour riot broke out Sunday afternoon and lasted through the night at a prison on the outskirts of Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state, said state public security secretary Sergio Fontes.

He called it "the biggest massacre" ever committed at a prison in the state.

Bloodied and burned bodies were stacked in a concrete prison yard and piled in carts, an AFP photographer at the scene said.

Outside, heavily armed police hunted for inmates feared to have escaped through a series of tunnels discovered at the Anisio Jobim penitentiary complex.

Fontes said 16 tunnels were discovered in all. He told journalists that authorities were still trying to determine whether any inmates had escaped.

Brazilian news site G1 reported that more than 130 had escaped.

Police were only able to restore order at the prison on Monday morning, freeing 12 guards who had been taken hostage, Fontes said.

They found a horrific scene inside.

"Many (victims) were decapitated, and they all suffered a lot of violence," Fontes told a press conference.

He said the gruesome scene appeared aimed at sending a message from the Family of the North (FDN), a powerful local gang, to rivals from the First Capital Command (PCC), one of Brazil's largest gangs, whose base is in Sao Paulo, some 2,700 kilometers (1,650 miles) to the southeast.

"During the negotiations (to end the riot), the prisoners had almost no demands," Fontes told local radio network Tiradentes.

"We think they had already done what they wanted: kill members of the rival organization."

Authorities have counted 60 bodies so far, all of them inmates, the head of the state's prisons administration, Pedro Florencio, told journalists.

- 'Silent war' -

It was the latest eruption of horrific violence to hit Brazil's underfunded and overcrowded prisons.

In October, deadly riots broke out at three separate prisons blamed on fighting between members of the country's two largest gangs, the PCC and the Red Command (CV).

During that episode, rioting inmates took visitors hostage, beheaded rivals and burned others alive, killing 33 people in all, authorities said.

Brazil's prisons are often under the de facto control of drug gangs, whose turf wars on the outside are also fought out among inmates.

"There is a silent war of drug trafficking, and the state needs to intervene," Fontes said.

"What did we see in this case? One faction fighting another, because each wants more money. The fight is for money and space."

Brazil has struggled for years against a lucrative and violent drug trade.

But jailing drug traffickers has done little to solve the problem. It may even fuel it, critics say.

Human rights groups have long complained about the conditions in Brazilian prisons.

Some 622,000 people were imprisoned in Brazil as of the end of 2014, most of them black males, according to a justice ministry report.

That makes it the world's fourth-largest prison population, the report said, after the United States, China and Russia.

Brazil's prisons need 50 percent more capacity to handle the current number of inmates, the justice ministry report found.

There were 1.67 prisoners for every available space, it said. In Amazonas state, the figure was 2.59 prisoners for every space.


Riot by Drug Gangs in Brazil Prison Leaves 60 Dead



A prison riot involving gangs vying for supremacy over the cocaine trade in the Brazilian Amazon left about 60 people dead, the authorities in the city of Manaus said on Monday.

Riots at Brazil’s prisons are common, but the episode in Manaus, which included decapitated bodies thrown over the walls of the penitentiary, ranks among the bloodiest in recent decades. Officials expressed dismay over the scenes of slaughter in the Compaj prison, which held more than 1,200 inmates, about triple its official capacity.

“I never saw anything like this in my life,” Judge Luís Carlos Valois, who helped negotiate an end to the riot, said in a Facebook post. He said that dozens of people had been killed, but that it was challenging to arrive at a precise count: “There were lots of bodies. Many of them were dismembered.”

The riot flared on Sunday and lasted about 17 hours, raising fears of even greater violence on the streets of Manaus, the largest city in the Amazon basin with a population of about 2.1 million. Manaus has emerged as a brutal battleground between two prison gangs that are contesting control of the drug trade in the region.

The authorities said that one of the gangs, Familia do Norte (Family of the North), which operates from the Manaus prisons, was responsible for the vast majority of the killings during the riot. The targets were from First Capital Command, a much larger rival gang commonly known by its Portuguese initials, P.C.C., which has its roots in the prisons of São Paulo in southeast Brazil.

“There were deaths only on one side,” Sérgio Fontes, the top security official in Amazonas State, told reporters. “The Familia do Norte massacred members of the First Capital Command, and one or another guys who weren’t on their good side at the moment.”

The riot drew comparisons with the 1992 uprising at the Carandiru prison in São Paulo, when police forces stormed the building and 111 inmates were killed. An appeals court recently voided the convictions of 73 police officers for their participation in the killings, raising criticism from human rights groups.

Since that episode, the Brazilian authorities have vowed to alleviate overcrowding in the country’s prisons and combat prison gangs. But soaring numbers of convictions for relatively minor drug offenses have pushed prison populations upward, the gangs’ clout is growing, and riots continue to erupt frequently all over the country.

In the riot in Manaus, inmates took dozens of fellow prisoners hostage. They also seized 12 employees of Umanizzare, a private contractor that operates prisons in the Amazon. Negotiators eventually won the release of the hostages by assuring the inmates that they would not be harmed or transferred to other prisons.

Security specialists say that Brazil could experience more riots like the one in Manaus as P.C.C., the São Paulo gang, extends its reach around the country. Familia do Norte, the Manaus gang, recently formed an alliance with Red Command, a gang that has been losing ground to P.C.C. in parts of Rio de Janeiro.


Inmates beheaded in Brazil jail riot, 60 killed

Manaus (Brazil) (AFP) - Rioting inmates in Brazil decapitated and brutally assaulted their rivals, killing at least 60, when fighting erupted between two gangs at a prison in the Amazon region, officials said Monday.

The 17-hour riot broke out Sunday afternoon and lasted through the night at a prison on the outskirts of Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state, said state public security secretary Sergio Fontes.

He called it "the biggest massacre" ever committed at a prison in the state -- and it ranks among the most deadly of numerous prison riots across Latin America in the past decade.

Bloodied and burned bodies were stacked in a concrete prison yard and piled in carts, said an AFP photographer at the scene.

Outside, heavily armed police hunted for dozens of inmates who escaped through a series of tunnels discovered at the Anisio Jobim penitentiary complex.

Fontes said 16 tunnels were discovered. In all, 87 inmates escaped, authorities said.

Forty have been recaptured so far, the state security secretariat told AFP.

Anguished relatives of inmates meanwhile waited outside the prison for news of their family members. Authorities have not yet released the names of those killed.

Police finally restored order at the prison on Monday morning, freeing 12 guards who had been taken hostage, Fontes said.

They found a horrific scene inside.

"Many (victims) were decapitated, and they all suffered a lot of violence," Fontes told a press conference.

He said the gruesome scene appeared aimed at sending a message from the Family of the North (FDN), a powerful local gang, to rivals from the First Capital Command (PCC), one of Brazil's largest gangs, whose base is in Sao Paulo, some 2,700 kilometers (1,650 miles) to the southeast.

"During the negotiations (to end the riot), the prisoners had almost no demands," Fontes told local radio network Tiradentes.

"We think they had already done what they wanted: kill members of the rival organization."

- 'Silent war' -

Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes flew to Manaus to meet with local officials, his office said.

It was the latest eruption of horrific violence to hit Brazil's underfunded and overcrowded prisons.

In October, deadly riots broke out at three prisons blamed on fighting between members of the country's two largest gangs, the PCC and the Red Command (CV).

During that episode, rioting inmates took visitors hostage, beheaded rivals and burned others alive, killing 33 people in all, authorities said.

Brazil's prisons are often under the de facto control of drug gangs, whose turf wars on the outside are also fought out among inmates.

"There is a silent war of drug trafficking, and the state needs to intervene," Fontes said.

"What did we see in this case? One faction fighting another, because each wants more money. The fight is for money and space."

Brazil has struggled for years against a lucrative and violent drug trade.

But jailing drug traffickers has done little to solve the problem. It may even fuel it, critics say.

Human rights groups have long complained about the conditions in Brazilian prisons.

"The problem starts with overcrowding," said Marcos Fuchs, a human rights activist.

"When you put inmates from rival factions in the same prison unit, the state has no control over what happens inside," he told AFP.

Some 622,000 people were imprisoned in Brazil as of the end of 2014, most of them black males, according to a justice ministry report.

That makes it the world's fourth-largest prison population, the report said, after the United States, China and Russia.

Brazil's prisons need 50 percent more capacity to handle the current number of inmates, the justice ministry report found.

There were 1.67 prisoners for every available space, it said. In Amazonas state, the figure was 2.59 prisoners for every space.

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