At least 60 inmates have been killed during a riot in an overcrowded Brazilian prison, officials say.
The unrest in Manaus, in Amazonas state, started on January 1 after a fight between rival gangs, police said.
The violence ended 17 hours later, when the inmates surrendered their weapons and freed unharmed the last of 12 guards they had taken hostage.
Brazil has the world’s fourth largest prison population.
There are some 600,000 inmates in Brazil, and overcrowding is a serious problem. Reports said the capacity of the Anisio Jobim Penitentiary Centre, the biggest in Amazonas, was for 454 inmates, but it had 1,224 men.
Image source AP
When the riot began, six headless bodies were thrown over the perimeter fence of the prison. Pictures showed bloodied and burned bodies stacked in a concrete prison yard and piled in carts.
The state public security secretary, Sergio Fontes, said rival gangs operating inside and outside the prison had been fighting for control over drug trafficking.
According to Sergio Fontes, the violence appeared to be a message from Family of the North (FDN), a powerful local gang, to rivals from the First Capital Command (PCC), one of Brazil’s largest gangs, whose base is in Sao Paulo, in the south-east.
He called it “the biggest massacre” ever committed at a prison in Amazonas.
The inmates got weapons through a hole in a prison wall, he added. Several firearms were found in the post-riot search by police, as well as several tunnels.
Prisoners at a second jail unit nearby also rioted and many escaped, Sergio Fontes said. Some 40 inmates had been recaptured, he added. It was unclear how many remained at large.
Fights between rival gangs often result in dozens of inmates being killed and sometimes dismembered.
The gang members behind the deadly riots are often from violent inner-city areas of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo who have been transferred to prisons in remote states in order to break up their gangs.
However, the number of deadly riots in these states would seem to indicate that this strategy has not worked according to plan, correspondents say.
This was the deadliest prison riot in Brazil since 1992, when a rebellion at the Carandiru prison in Sao Paulo saw 111 inmates killed, nearly all of them by police as they retook the jail.
Australia’s Christmas Island detention center has been set on fire by inmates in a “major disturbance” that is yet to be resolved, government officials say.
The unrest was sparked by the death of an Iranian detainee, Fazel Chegeni, who had escaped the camp.
The immigration department confirmed in a statement that guards had been withdrawn for “safety reasons”.
The statement denied a “large-scale riot” was taking place but said the situation at the center for refugees and asylum seekers was “tense”.
Christmas Island is a remote outpost located 1,650 miles north-west of Perth and 238 miles south of Java in Indonesia.
It is part of Australia’s network of offshore processing centers for irregular refugees who arrive by boat, and also houses New Zealanders facing deportation from Australia.
The Department of Immigration said the unrest started when a group of Iranian inmates staged a protest about the death of an Iranian Kurd, Fazel Chegeni.
Fazel Chegeni had escaped from the facility on November 7. His body was found at the bottom of a cliff on November 8.
The statement said that “while peaceful protest is permissible, other detainees took advantage of the situation to engage in property damage and general unrest”.
It said a number of small fires had been lit within the complex and that a group of detainees “continue to agitate and cause damage to the facility”.
“There are no reports at this time of any injuries to detainees or staff.”
Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said officers from private contractor Serco, which operates the detention centre, would be “negotiating or dealing with those people who have caused disturbances”.
“If people have caused damage to Commonwealth property, then they will be investigated and prosecuted in relation to those matters,” Peter Dutton said.
Ian Rintoul, of the Refugee Action Coalition group, said that Fazel Chegeni was “suffering the effects of long-term arbitrary detention”.
“He had told other detainees that he could no longer stand being in detention and just wanted <<to go outside>>,” Ian Rintoul said in a statement.
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the unrest was inevitable, and described the centre as being in “meltdown”.
“I have spoken with people who are locked up in the centre and they say that there is widespread unrest and fires across the facility,” Sarah Hanson-Young said in a statement.
“With all Serco guards being removed from the center late last night, the people who are locked up there are being left to fend for themselves.”
Sarah Hanson-Young said she was concerned that asylum seekers had been locked up with other detainees, putting them “at risk”.
“The government was warned repeatedly about the increasingly toxic situation on Christmas Island but, regrettably, those warnings were ignored,” she said.
Australia sends intercepted asylum seekers to Christmas Island, Manus Island in Papua New Guinea and Nauru in the South Pacific.
The government says the journey the asylum seekers make by sea to reach Australia is dangerous and controlled by criminal gangs and they have a duty to stop it. Critics say opposition to asylum is often racially motivated and is damaging Australia’s reputation.
The policy was branded a “disaster” by Human Rights Watch’s Australia director in July. The group also raised concern over conditions at the Manus camp.