A fight among gangs at a prison in Ecuador has left at least 116 dead and 80 injured in what authorities are describing as the worst penitentiary massacre in the nation's history, according to the Associated Press.
The outlet noted that at least five of the deceased were reported decapitated, officials said Wednesday.
Authorities ascribed Tuesday's violence at the Litoral penitentiary to gangs connected to international drug cartels battling for control of the facility, according to the AP.
President Guillermo Lasso noted at a news conference that what was taking place at the facility was "bad and sad" and that he could not at the moment guarantee that authorities had regained control, according to the outlet.
"It is regrettable that the prisons are being turned into territories for power disputes by criminal gangs," he said, noting that he would act with "absolute firmness" to regain control of the prison and prevent the violence from spreading to other prisons, the outlet reported.
The violence involved firearms, knives and bombs, officials noted, according to the AP.
"In the history of the country, there has not been an incident similar or close to this one," former president of the nation's National Rehabilitation Council Ledy Zúñig said, according to the outlet.
Officials reported earlier that the episode was tied to a dispute involving the "Los Lobos" and "Los Choneros" prison gangs, the AP noted.
Former director of Ecuador's military intelligence Col. Mario Pazmiño said the violence reveals that "transnational organized crime has permeated the structure" of the country's prisons, and he said that Mexico's Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels operate via local gangs.
"They want to sow fear," he told the outlet on Wednesday. "The more radical and violent the way they murder," the more they accomplish their objective of control, he noted.