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article imageFresh jail riot erupts as Brazil unrest spreads

By Johannes MYBURGH (AFP)     Jan 19, 2017 in World

Stick-wielding inmates hurled stones and lit fires Thursday in a Brazilian jail where dozens were previously massacred, as authorities struggled to contain a spreading wave of gang violence.

Police fired rubber bullets to try to separate two groups of inmates as they fought a pitched battled in the courtyard of the Alcacuz prison in the northern town of Natal, AFP reporters overlooking the facility saw.

Brazil prison violence
Brazil prison violence

The governor of the surrounding Rio Grande do Norte state, Robinson Faria, called for the armed forces to deploy in the streets of Natal after rioting spread beyond the prison.

Globonews television channel showed pictures of injured inmates being evacuated from the jail.

Rioting also broke out in six towns in the state, a spokesman for local authorities told AFP.

Six cars and a truck were set on fire and seven people were arrested in that unrest, the spokesman said.

One person died and five were hurt during another prisoner uprising in the nearby town of Caico, he said.

- Jail massacres -

On Wednesday, elite officers entered the Alcacuz prison near the northern city of Natal and transferred 220 inmates to another jail.

The Alcacuz facility was the scene of gruesome violence between two rival gangs last weekend when 26 inmates were massacred, most of them beheaded.

Inmates stand on the roof of the Alcacuz Penitentiary Center near Natal  Brazil on January 19  2017
Inmates stand on the roof of the Alcacuz Penitentiary Center near Natal, Brazil on January 19, 2017
Andressa Anholete, AFP

That was the third major mass-killing in a Brazilian prison this year.

So far this year, 134 people have been killed in prison violence, according to the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper, citing justice ministry figures.

- Troops intervene -

Authorities are accused of allowing gangs to run the overcrowded jails.

Members of the special police battalion enter the Alcacuz Penitentiary Center to regain control of t...
Members of the special police battalion enter the Alcacuz Penitentiary Center to regain control of the penitentiary in Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil, on January 18, 2017

In a bid to wrest back control, the government is deploying 1,000 troops to "clean out" arms, explosives and cellphones from various cellblocks in the country.

Defense Minister Raul Jungmann called the situation a "national emergency."

Brazilian police had stormed the Alcacuz prison early Sunday to halt the bloodbath, but were still not in full control four days later.

Rival groups of prisoners remained loose in the courtyard, sheltering behind barricades of mattresses and furniture.

The prison was built for a maximum of 620 inmates but currently houses 1,083, the state justice department said.

- Drug gang war -

Experts say the violence is part of a war between drug gangs battling for control of one of the world's most important cocaine markets and trafficking routes.

Brazil shares borders with Colombia, Bolivia and Peru, the world's three biggest cocaine producers. It is a key route for trafficking the drug to Europe.

At Alcacuz, inmates from the country's biggest gang, the Sao Paulo-based First Capital Command (PCC), faced off against allies of their rivals from the Rio de Janeiro-based Red Command.

The Natal massacre raised fears that the wave of violence could spread across the country -- including to the crime-plagued metropolis of Rio de Janeiro.

About 60 inmates were killed in the northwestern city of Manaus on January 1. Many were beheaded and mutilated.

A further 33 died in a prison riot in Roraima state on January 6.

After those two riots, Temer announced the federal government would spend $250 million to build new prisons.

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