At least 41 women were killed Tuesday in a clash between rival gangs at a women’s prison in Honduras that resulted in a fire engulfing part of the facility, police said.
Police spokesman Edgardo Barahona told “Agence France Presse” that the preliminary toll indicates that 41 women were killed in the women’s prison located 25 km north of the capital, Tegucigalpa, but it was not clear if all of the dead were prisoners.
He pointed out that 5 women were injured and were taken to hospital.
Honduran President Sioumara Castro expressed via Twitter her “shock” at the “brutal” crime committed by gangs in the women’s prison “in full view of the security authorities,” expressing her solidarity with the families of the victims and the injured.
The country’s president, Leela, dismissed the security minister from his post. In a statement, Castro said she had decided to “appoint General Gustavo Sanchez as Minister of Security” to succeed Ramon Sabion.
A spokesman for the Attorney General’s office, Yuri Mora, said in a statement to “Agence France Presse” that the majority of the victims died in the fire, noting that some of the bodies bore signs of gunfire.
An investigation was opened to find out which gang initiated the attack, according to Mora.
of the families of the victims
The head of the Association of Families of Women Prisoners, Dilma Ordonis, said a group of women entered a rival gang’s cell and set it on fire. She confirmed that this section of the building, where the deaths took place, was “completely destroyed,” noting that the number of women prisoners in the building is 900.
Hundreds of female prisoners’ relatives gathered near the prison in an attempt to obtain more information.
“We don’t know who the victims are,” said one man, looking very agitated.
Deputy Security Minister Julisa Villanueva vowed a harsh response to the violence, denouncing “acts of vandalism”.
Police officers near the prison where the massacre took place
On Twitter, it declared a “state of emergency” and deployed a large number of “firefighters, police and army personnel”.
Honduras is a country plagued by corruption and gangs that have reached the highest positions in the government.
With its neighbors El Salvador and Guatemala, Honduras forms what is known as the “triangle of death”, where murder gangs run drug trafficking and organized crime.
Drug trafficking groups and gangs are widely responsible for the high murder rate in Honduras, which last year recorded 40 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, four times higher than the global average.
Despair prompted many young people to consider immigration to the United States as the only option to ensure a better future.
Honduras is a transit country for Colombian cocaine and other narcotics to the United States.
The country’s president has vowed to crack down on criminal gangs, and last year temporarily lifted some constitutional requirements to enable police to arrest people without warrants.
In neighboring El Salvador, President Najib Bukele is leading a “war” against gangs, which has so far resulted in the arrest of more than 60,000 people.
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