As ‘terrorist’ arrests pass 300, police and military concentrate on three gangs in five coastal provinces

Jan 11, 2024 | 0 comments

Police and military personnel have arrested 329 alleged gang members since Tuesday, Armed Forces Chief Jaime Vela reported Wednesday afternoon. “These men are members of three terrorist organizations, Los Tiguerones, Los Lobos and Los Choneros,” he said, adding that operations “are just beginning.”

Joint police and military operations have resulted in more than 300 arrests of members of criminal gangs as of Wednesday afternoon.

In addition to the arrests of gang members, Vela said the joint police and military operations have captured 28 inmates who escaped Monday and Tuesday from three prisons.

Vela said six suspected gang members have been killed in gunfights during the raids while one police officer was wounded. “During the missions, we have seized dozens of weapons, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, 200 cars, illegal drugs and a large amount of cash,” he said.

The sweep for gang members is concentrated in six coastal provinces, according to Vela: Los Ríos, Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, Guayas, Manabí, Esmeraldas and El Oro. “These are the areas where the gangs are concentrated and where they commit the most crimes,” he said. “We are also increasing control of the routes used by narco traffickers for the transport of drugs from Colombia and Peru. We are patrolling the border entry locations.”

Vela and National Police Commander Cesar Zapata acknowledged that the raids on gang strongholds involve high levels of risk. “When we go into their territory, we understand the risks we are taking and are prepared for it,” Zapata said. “The gang members are armed and are not accustomed to being confronted on their home turf.”

Zapata described a gunfight in the Guacharaca parish of Esmeraldas Province Wednesday, where a house used by Los Choneros was burned down by police. “Our objective was to make arrests and destroy the gang headquarters,” he said. “We encountered gunfire, which we returned. We understand we are at war with these people and will proceed accordingly.”

According to Zapata, police continue to be gang targets, reporting that two police died on patrol in Guayas Province on Tuesday. “These are dangerous times for law enforcement personnel,” he said. “Our objective during the emergency period is to reduce the danger not just for police but for all the citizens of Ecuador.”

Zapata said talks are continuing with prisoners holding an estimated 130 hostages in three prisons. “We hope to gain their release soon and the hostages tell us they are being treated well,” he said. He said that thousands of police and military personnel are stationed around six prisons to prevent escapes and to protect the public.

Vela and Zapata said that the designation of 22 gangs as terrorist organizations by President Daniel Noboa clarifies the mission for police and the army. “This is a military operation with the very clear objective of taking down the enemy,” said Zapata. “This is not a mission against common crime.”

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