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Gunmen Storm Television Studio Live on Air in Ecuador

Ecuador gunmen
An employee pleads with a gunman who invaded the studio. Video screenshot/YouTube

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

Employees were forced onto the floor during the broadcast by the public television channel TC in Guayaquil before the live feed cut out.

Police say they later freed all the staff and made thirteen arrests. The station said two employees were injured.

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.

A woman could be heard pleading, “Don’t shoot, please don’t shoot,” AFP news agency reports, while a person could be heard screaming in apparent pain.

“Please, they came in to kill us,” a TC employee told AFP in a WhatsApp message. “God don’t let this happen. The criminals are on air.”

One cameraman was shot in the leg, and another’s arm was broken in the attack, the deputy director of news said.

“Through our earpieces the producers told us, ‘Be careful, they are trying to enter, they are stealing, they are mugging us,'” Jorge Rendon told the Reuters news agency.

“The doors in the studio are very thick, almost bullet-proofed, and they were trying to get in because they wanted to gain access to the studio so we would say whatever they wanted us to say,” he said.

Posting a video of the suspects arrested on social media – and their weapons – police said the perpetrators would be “punished for terrorist acts.”

“Internal armed conflict” in Ecuador

President Noboa of Ecuador said on Tuesday that an “internal armed conflict” now existed in the country, and he was mobilizing the armed forces to carry out “military operations to neutralize” what he called “transnational organized crime, terrorist organizations 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.

The order established as a result of the state of emergency declared on Monday ordains a nightly curfew in an attempt to curb violence. Security forces have been trying to re-establish order in at least six jails where riots broke out on Monday.

Eight people were killed and three injured in attacks linked to criminal gangs in Guayaquil on Tuesday while two police officers were killed by “armed criminals” in the nearby town of Nobol, police said.

In the city of Riobamba, nearly forty inmates, including another convicted drug lord, broke out of prison.

At least seven police officers were also kidnapped, and a video circulating on social media shows three of the kidnapped officers sitting on the ground with a gun pointed at them as one is forced to read a statement addressed to President Noboa, AFP reports.

“You declared war, you will get war,” the officer reads out. “You declared a state of emergency. We declare police, civilians and soldiers to be the spoils of war.”

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