Honduran officials seize guns from prisoners after killing

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APTOPIX Honduras Prison Violence

Family members cry as they wait for news from their imprisoned relatives, outside the Tela prison where at least 18 inmates were killed during a riot on Friday, in Tela, Honduras, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019. The riot came several days after Honduras declared a state of emergency in its prison system. (AP Photo/Delmer Martinez)

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Honduran authorities seized five 9 mm firearms from prisoners on Saturday after a riot broke out in a prison and at least 18 people were killed.

The violence occurred in Tela, in the Atlantida region on the Caribbean coast, just several days after Honduras declared a state of emergency in its prison system. The measure suspended civilian leaders in prisons and replaced them with a special commission led by military and police officers.

However, the transfer of control to the special commission had not been completed when the riot broke out at the Tela prison, said José Coello, a spokesman for the new prison command system.

Inmates with firearms attacked other prisoners on Friday afternoon in a courtyard and individual cells, killing 17 and wounding 17. One of the wounded later died at hospital.

Digna Aguilar, spokeswoman for the National Penitentiary Institute, told The Associated Press that the prisoners attacked while half of the prison staff was gone for the Christmas holidays and that the director of the facility has been suspended.

She said the motive for the attack was unclear, and that investigators were collecting evidence at the institution on Saturday.

The prison is now under the control of the National Interinstitutional Security Force.

The military and police takeover of prisons in Honduras is scheduled to last six months. Authorities want to use that time to root out corruption and violence in the prison system.

Migdonia Ayestas, director of the Observatory of Violence at the National Autonomous University of Honduras, said that 27 incarcerated individuals have been killed inside prisons in 2019.