At least 42 prisoners killed in Brazil jail clashes

A relative of an inmate outside a prison in Amazonas.

 A relative of an inmate outside a prison in Amazonas. Photograph: Bruno Kelly/Reuters

Forty-two inmates have been killed at three different prisons in the capital of Brazil’s northern Amazonas state, a day after 15 died during fighting among prisoners at a fourth prison in the same city.

The Amazonas state prison agency said all 42 prisoners found dead in Manaus on Monday showed signs of asphyxia.

The killings across the city’s prisons recalled early 2017 when more than 120 inmates died at the hands of other prisoners during several weeks of fighting among rival crime gang members at prisons in northern states. Many of those victims had their heads cut off or their hearts and intestines ripped out.

On Sunday, 15 inmates were killed during a riot at Manaus’s Anísio Jobim prison complex, where 56 prisoners died in the violence two years earlier.

Local authorities said prisoners began fighting among themselves before midday on Sunday, but security reinforcements managed to regain control within 45 minutes.

Little information was released about Monday’s killings.

Relatives of inmates wait for news outside a prison in the state of Amazonas.
 Relatives of inmates wait for news outside a prison in the state of Amazonas. Photograph: Bruno Kelly/Reuters

Brazil’s justice and public security ministry said it was sending a federal taskforce to help local officials handle the situation.

The Amazonas state governor, Wilson Lima, said: “I just spoke with [the justice] minister, Sérgio Moro, who is already sending a prison intervention team to the state of Amazonas, so that he can help us in this moment of crisis and a problem that is national: the problem of prisons.”

Several drug-trafficking and other criminal gangs in Brazil run much of their day-to-day business from prisons, where they often have wide sway. The 2017 killings were largely gang-related, prompting authorities to increase efforts to separate factions and frequently transfer prisoners.

Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has vowed to regain control of the country’s prisons, along with building more jails.

Authorities have not yet said whether gang wars were behind the latest killings.

Moro had to send a federal taskforce to help quell violence in Ceará state in January that local officials said was ordered by crime gang leaders angered by plans to impose tighter controls in the state’s prisons.