Ecuadorean Navy guard a port where nine people were killed Ecuadorean Navy guard a port where nine people were killed  (AFP or licensors)

Ecuador: Nine killed in port shooting

Several unidentified gunmen kill nine men working at the fishing port of Esmeralda in Ecuador amid a rise in violent crime in the Latin American nation.

By Vatican News staff reporter

Nine people were killed on Tuesday morning when an armed group opened fire on fishermen who were carrying out their usual work in the small port of Esmeraldas, Ecuador.

The Public Prosecutor's Office reported on social networks that it has made the forensic removal of seven bodies in the Artisanal Fishing Port of Esmeraldas and "two more in a nearby health centre".

The bodies have been transferred to the Esmeraldas Forensic Centre, while the authorities have deployed an extensive investigative operation to try to "find those responsible for this crime", the Prosecutor's Office added.

In addition, the entity has arranged to examine a taxi that was used in the shooting and then abandoned at the site.

"Around 20 heavily armed people were allegedly involved in the crime," the prosecutor's office added, according to its initial investigations.

Organized crime link

According to local media, the armed group arrived in boats at the seafood warehouse of the fishing port and opened fire on the workers.

For the moment, no official hypothesis has been made about the incident, but posts on social media suggest ties to an armed group dedicated to extortion that seeks to generate panic among the population with the aim of making them submit to the payment of "vacunas" (quotas) or extortion for security.

Several digital media also point to the action of a gang of hired assassins or revenge generated by drug trafficking groups that often use fishing boats to transport drugs illegally.

The shooting in the fishing port of Esmeraldas came at a time when there are daily reports of murders, assaults and extortion in several cities in the country.

Ecuador has been plagued for a couple of years by a wave of insecurity and the emergence of criminal gangs, which have even exceeded the control of the forces of law and order.

The incident also occurred at a time when the National Assembly (Parliament) is conducting an impeachment trial against the country's president, Guillermo Lasso, who is accused by the political opposition of embezzlement, but who also blames him for the wave of insecurity in the country.

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12 April 2023, 16:15