EU and the US issue new travel warnings for coastal areas following Saturday night Montañita massacre

May 22, 2023 | 43 comments

Six people were killed and at least seven were injured Saturday night when gunmen opened fire in a Montañita restaurant. Police are calling the attack a ‘revenge killing’ in which a gang leader of the Los Águilas was confirmed dead.

A police forensics van removes bodies Saturday night from a restaurant in the coastal resort of Montañita.

As of late Sunday, only three of the dead, including Emilio López, alias Morro, had been identified. The Santa Elena Province police command said it did not know if there were other targets besides López but said at least three of the dead were innocent restaurant customers.

Sunday night, the European Union office in Brussels posted a new message calling the coastal region of Ecuador “deadly” due to recent mass shootings and warned tourists “in the strongest possible terms” to avoid the area. The U.S. State Department issued a similar bulletin earlier in the day.

The EU advised that the Galapagos and the Andean region of Ecuador remained safe for travelers. “The gang-related killings appear restricted to the coastal area of Ecuador with the cities of Guayaquil, Manta, Esmeraldas, and Machala being the most affected. The Galapagos Islands and the cities of Quito and Cuenca in the sierra remain safe.”

According to police, López was the second in command of the Los Águilas, a gang aligned with the Colombian cartel Los Choneros. The alleged leader of Los Choneros, Junior Roldán, was murdered May 6 in Antioquia, Colombia. The leader of Los Águilas, José Macías, alias Fito, is being held in the Guayaquil Regional Prison.

Santa Elena Police Captain Juan Soria said gunmen entered the Montañita pizza restaurant at 10:50 p.m. Saturday night and opened fire. “We have determined that the primary target was López but do not know if there were other targets. Most of the victims were innocent.”

According to Soria, López was wanted by police in recent cases of murder and extortion.

Santa Elena Province Governor José Alava, confirmed the six deaths and said at least that many were injured in the attack. “Because of the chaos at the scene we do not yet have an accurate number of those hurt,” he said. “Most of them were transported to hospitals in private vehicles.”

Alava decried the recent waves of violence in Santa Elena and said police are dedicated to locating and arresting the three suspects in the shooting. “This area is not accustomed to this terrible violence and the government will spare no effort to find the killers and restore peace to the province.”

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