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41 women killed in Honduras prison riot

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At least 41 women have been killed – some of them burned to death – after an outbreak of violence between gangs at a prison in Honduras.

Authorities found dozens of bodies after the violence on Tuesday at the prison in Tamara, about 30 miles (50km) north-west of the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, said Yuri Mora, spokesperson for the national police investigation agency.

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Some of the victims had been shot to death, and at least seven female inmates were being treated at a Tegucigalpa hospital for gunshot and knife wounds, employees there said.

President Xiomara Castro said she was shocked by what she described as the “monstrous murder” of the women, which she blamed on powerful street gangs. “Solidarity with the families,” she wrote in a tweet, adding that she would respond with “drastic measures”.

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Delma Ordonez, the president of an association for prisoners’ families, told Reuters that a brawl had broken out at the prison between members of rival gangs Barrio 18 and the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13).

Relatives of the inmates gathered outside the prison, seeking to find out about their loved ones.

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“I’m looking for information about what happened to my daughter, but they still haven’t informed us,” a woman who identified herself as Ligia Rodríguez said in a television interview.

Julissa Villanueva, the head of the country’s prison system, suggested the riot started because of recent attempts by authorities to crack down on illicit activity inside prisons and called Tuesday’s violence a result of “the actions we are taking against organized crime”.

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“We will not back down,” Villanueva said in a televised address after the riot.

Gangs often wield broad control inside the country’s prisons, where inmates often set their own rules and sell prohibited goods.

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The riot appears to be the worst tragedy at a female detention center in the region since 2017, when girls at a shelter for troubled youths in Guatemala set fire to mattresses to protest rapes and other mistreatment at the badly overcrowded institution. The ensuing smoke and fire killed 41 girls.

The worst prison disaster in a century also occurred in Honduras, in 2012 at the Comayagua penitentiary, where 361 inmates died in a fire. Most of the victims had never been charged or convicted of a crime.

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