QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Masked men broke onto the set of a public television channel in Ecuador waving guns and explosives during a live broadcast Tuesday, and the president issued a decree declaring that the South American country had entered an “internal armed conflict.”
The men armed with pistols and what looked like sticks of dynamite entered the set of the TC Television network in the port city of Guayaquil and shouted that they had bombs. Noises similar to gunshots could be heard in the background. It was not immediately clear if any station personnel were injured.
Ecuador has been rocked by a series of attacks, including the abductions of several police officers, in the wake of a powerful gang leader’s apparent escape from prison Sunday. President Daniel Noboa said Monday that he would declare a national state of emergency, a measure that lets authorities suspend people’s rights and mobilize the military in places like prisons.
Shortly after the gunmen stormed the TV station, Noboa issued another decree designating 20 drug trafficking gangs operating in the country as terrorist groups and authorizing Ecuador’s military to “neutralize” these groups within the bounds of international humanitarian law.
Ecuador’s national police chief announced a short time later that authorities had arrested all the masked intruders. Police commander César Zapata told the TV channel Teleamazonas that officers seized the guns and explosives the gunmen had with them. He didn’t say how many people were arrested.
“This is an act that should be considered a terrorist act,” Zapata said.