Ecuador: 49 hostages held captive in a mine have been freed

Ecuador: 49 hostages held captive in a mine have been freed
Ecuador: 49 hostages held captive in a mine have been freed

Ecuadorian police have freed 49 people who were kidnapped by a criminal group and forced to work in a mine in southern Ecuador, an official source said Friday.

“In a major operation against organized crime, the police managed to rescue 49 people kidnapped by the dangerous gang “Los Lobos” in the province of Azuay,” the presidency announced on the X network. “Los Lobos” (the wolves) is one of the main gangs involved in drug trafficking and criminal violence that ravages the country.

“During the operation, an arsenal of weapons and explosives was also seized, which significantly weakened the operational capacity of the criminal group,” said the presidency, which published images of the operation in a mountainous Andean area on its account.

Armed police and military personnel entered the tunnels of the underground mine to free the hostages, according to the footage. During their intervention, they had to “repel an armed attack carried out by several individuals,” Colonel José Vargas, head of the regional police, told reporters.

A child and three women are among the 49 people freed, who were held hostage for two days in an underground passage of the mine, a police source told AFP. Human remains were also found buried in the vicinity of the mine located in Camilo Ponce Enriquez.

Two Colombians were arrested during the operation. Automatic weapons, ammunition and 81 sticks of dynamite were seized, according to the police.

Ecuador is facing an unprecedented wave of criminal violence linked to drug trafficking, with the country serving as a platform for exporting cocaine produced in neighboring Colombia and Peru to Europe and the United States.

In January, the escape of a dangerous gang leader (still at large) from a high-security prison further exacerbated the violence. President Daniel Noboa declared a state of emergency and declared the country to be in “internal armed conflict.” The state of emergency has since been extended in areas where gangs have “taken refuge and entrenched themselves” to escape the military offensive.

The army has been ordered to neutralize about twenty criminal gangs linked to the Albanian mafia and cartels from Mexico and Colombia, described as “terrorists” and “belligerents.”

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