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article imageTen killed in northeast Brazil prison clash: official

By AFP     Jan 29, 2018 in World

Fighting between gangs at a prison in Brazil's northeastern Ceara state left 10 dead early Monday, state law enforcement authorities said.

"A fight began between rival groups of inmates, resulting in fatalities," a spokesman for the justice secretary said. Guards have retaken control of the facility, he said.

The bloodshed took place in the Itapaje Public Prison, about 78 miles (125 kilometers) from the state capital Fortaleza.

On Saturday, at least 14 people were gunned down at a nightclub in Fortaleza. Local media reported that the massacre, conducted by armed men who arrived in three cars, was related to disputes between rival drug traffickers.

Officials did not say whether there was any link between that and Monday's incident.

Last year, there were a record 5,114 murders in the state of Ceara, a 50 percent rise from 2016.

Brazilian prisons are notoriously overcrowded, with 726,712 inmates as of June 2016 and capacity for only 368,000 -- roughly half, according to the most recent official statistics.

The country is already one of the most violent in the world, with nearly 60,000 homicides annually.

Much of that violence is the result of battles over drug turf, with conflicts taking place not only in the streets but behind bars where drug kingpins continue to hold sway.

In one of the most bloody episodes, 56 were killed in an uprising in a prison in the city of Manaus in Brazil's Amazon a year ago.

According to the news site, the massacre in the nightclub and Monday's prison attack were related.

"It's the same dispute that has been occurring these last days and resulted in Ceara's worst ever massacre," the site quoted the president of the state prison workers' union SINDESP-CE as saying.

Local reports said Saturday's killings were part of turf wars between two drug gangs: the smaller GDE (Guardians of the State) and CV, or Red Command, which operates nationwide and is one of Brazil's most active.

Adding to Brazil's security woes, the police force is regularly accused of breaking the law in carrying out extrajudicial killings, falsifying evidence and failing to investigate its own officers.

Human Rights Watch reported earlier this month that police had killed 4,224 people in 2016 -- the last available figures -- which was about 26 percent more than in 2015.

The streets are also deadly for police: 437 were killed in 2016, the report said.

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