A live broadcast by Ecuadorean television station TC was interrupted by a group of armed people who forced staff to lie and sit on the floor as shots and yelling were heard. The country’s president has declared 22 gangs terrorist organizations and said that the country is in a state of “internal armed conflict.”.
The people, wearing balaclavas and largely dressed in black, were seen wielding large guns and accosting huddled staffers on the live feed, which eventually cut out on Tuesday. It is unclear if any station personnel were injured.
Another channel showed images of police outside TC’s studios in Guayaquil, a coastal city that has been plagued by surging violence over the last several years as narcotrafficking groups step up operations in the once relatively peaceful South American nation.
Ecuador’s national police said on social media that it’s specialized units had been deployed to the site, and police confirmed that 13 arrests had been made. The national police posted images of several men with their hands zip-tied behind their backs, stating that they were captured in their intervention at the studio.
The incident came after at least seven police officers were kidnapped, explosions occurred in several cities and prison inmates seized dozens of guards as hostages, a day after President Daniel Noboa declared a state of emergency.
Noboa issued a decree on Tuesday stating that the country was in a state of “internal armed conflict” and declaring 22 gangs as terrorist organizations. The decree ordered the armed forces to “neutralize” the groups, in line with international law and human rights.
Noboa declared the 60-day state of emergency—a tool used by his predecessor to little success—on Monday, enabling military patrols, including in prisons, and setting a national nighttime curfew.
The measure was a response to the disappearance of Adolfo Macias, leader of the criminal gang Los Choneros, from the prison where he was serving a 34-year sentence, and unrest at six other prisons, including prison guards being taken hostage.
Peru’s Prime Minister Alberto Otarola, meanwhile, declared an emergency along his country’s northern border with Ecuador, saying an unspecified number of army troops would be deployed to support police forces in the area.