Hundreds of police have been deployed to restore order in Cantel Prison, where at least seven inmates have been killed.
According to officials, at least seven prisoners have been killed, most beheaded, in clashes between rival gangs in a prison in western Guatemala.
Hundreds of police have been deployed to restore order in Cantel Prison, which houses inmates of the Mara Salvatrucha gang and its sworn enemies, Barrio 18, following Wednesday’s violence.
“Preliminarily, the deaths of seven inmates are known,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement, calling the situation a “riot.”
The figure was confirmed by the Prosecutor’s Office, whose staff managed to access the prison, located 205 kilometers (125 miles) west of the capital.
A spokesman for the National Civil Police (PNC), Jorge Aguilar, previously told the AFP news agency that the violence was caused by a clash between two gangs and that at least six prisoners had been beheaded.
Authorities suspect one of the gangs attacked the other in retaliation for an incident a few days ago, Aguilar added.
Gang violence and riots are common in Cantel prison, which has been condemned by human rights groups for its deplorable conditions.
Built to house five hundred inmates, it currently houses more than four times that number, police said.
From Guatemala feared and violent the gangs are known for their extortion rackets, in which they force employers and bus operators to pay them protection money or face execution.
Gangs are responsible for nearly half of the 3,500 violent deaths one year in Guatemala, according to authorities, one of the highest violent mortality rates in the world.