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Ecuador: Gunmen storm television studio live on air

Masked gunmen Tuesday broke into a live television studio in Ecuador and threatened terrified staff.

Employees were forced on to the floor during the broadcast by the public television channel TC in the city of Guayaquil before the live feed was cut out.

Channel 1

Police say they later freed all the staff and made 13 arrests, showing off weapons recovered.

During Tuesday’s assault at the TV station, one gunman pointed a pump-action shotgun at the head of one of the captives, who was also threatened with a revolver.

At least 10 people have been killed since a 60-day state of emergency began in Ecuador on Monday.

The emergency was declared after a notorious gangster vanished from his prison cell. It is unclear whether the incident at the TV studio in Guayaquil was related to the disappearance from a prison in the same city of the boss of the Choneros gang, Adolfo Macías Villamar, or Fito as he is better known.

In neighbouring Peru, the government ordered the immediate deployment of a police force to the border to prevent any instability crossing into the country.

The US has said it condemns the “brazen attacks” in Ecuador and is “co-ordinating closely” with President Daniel Noboa and his Ecuadorean government and stands “ready to provide assistance”.

Ecuador is one of the world’s top banana exporters, but also exports oil, coffee, cocoa, shrimps and fish products.

A surge in violence in the Andean nation, inside and outside its prisons, has been linked to fighting between drug cartels, both foreign and local, over control of cocaine routes to the US and Europe.

President Noboa said on Tuesday that an “internal armed conflict” now existed in the country and he was mobilising the armed forces to carry out “military operations to neutralise” what he called “transnational organised crime, terrorist organisations and belligerent non-state actors”.

He was responding to a wave of recent jail riots and escapes from prisons and other acts of violence blamed by authorities on criminal gangs.

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