Ecuador President declares country under 'internal armed conflict'

Soldiers patrol following an outbreak of violence a day after Ecuador's President Daniel Noboa declared a 60-day state of emergency following the disappearance of Adolfo Macias, leader of the Los Choneros criminal gang from prison, in Quito, Ecuador, Jan. 9, 2024.

Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa said Tuesday his country is in the grip of “internal armed conflict” amid growing violence across the South American country.

The president made the declaration hours after a group of masked men armed with guns and explosives stormed a public television station in the port city of Guayaquil during a live news program and fired shots in the studio.

Police later seized control of the station and arrested 13 suspected gunmen and charged them with terrorism. No one was hurt in the incident.

The crisis began over the weekend with the apparent escape of Adolfo Macias, the leader of the notorious drug gang Los Choneros.

Several police officers have been abducted and numerous bombs have been detonated across Ecuador.

Authorities Tuesday said another drug-trafficking boss, Fabricio Colon Pico of the Los Lobos group, had escaped from police custody from the town of Riobamba.

Colon Pico has been accused of being involved in a plot to kill the country’s attorney general.

President Noboa declared a state of emergency Monday in response to the violence.

In addition to Tuesday’s declaration of the country being under “internal armed conflict,” Noboa named more than 20 drug-trafficking gangs as terrorist organizations and declared them military targets.

Ecuador has been plagued by violence for years as the once-peaceful nation has become a major transit route for cocaine smuggling between South and North America.

Peru has declared a state of emergency along its shared border with Ecuador, while Brazil, Chile and Colombia have expressed support for Ecuador’s leader. China has closed its embassy in Ecuador’s capital, Quito, and all its consulates in the country.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse.