Gunmen in Ecuador kill 9, injure 10 others in attack in coastal city of Guayaquil as violence surges

Ecuador's President Daniel Noboa shakes hands with a farmer during his visit to Poalo, Ecuador, Thursday, March 21, 2024, where he met with dairy farmers and handed out 400 land titles. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Gunmen attacked a group of people in Ecuador ’s coastal city of Guayaquil killing nine and injuring 10 others, police said Sunday, the latest in a string of violent incidents in the South American country.

The attack took place around 7 p.m. local time Saturday in the southern neighborhood of Guasmo. According to police, the armed group entered a pedestrian street in a grey Chevrolet Spark, where a group of people were practicing sports. The gunmen got out of the vehicle and proceeded to shoot people.

“So far, the result is nine people dead and 10 injured,” police Col. Ramiro Arequipa told journalists around midday on Sunday.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

It was the second mass killing in as many days. On Friday, five people who had been kidnapped were killed execution style in the coastal province of Manabi by an armed gang. Police said there were signs the victims were tourists mistakenly caught up in a local drug-trafficking dispute. They didn't elaborate.

In that incident, an armed group had kidnapped a total of 11 people. Police said the other six, including five minors, were rescued and handed over to their families. Two suspects were arrested on Saturday morning, according to police.

The killings in Manabi “remind us that the battle continues,” said Ecuador’s President Daniel Noboa on the social media network X, formerly Twitter, on Saturday.

“Narcoterrorism and its allies are looking for spaces to scare us, but they will not succeed,” Noboa said. His post contained a video of a man handcuffed and bent over, being led away forcefully by an armed police officer.

Ecuador was once considered a bastion of peace in Latin America, but in recent years has seen a surge in violent attacks.

Noboa declared a state of emergency in January, which provides for permanent operations by a security force made up of police and military. In addition, a five-hour curfew is in force in high-incidence areas such as Guayaquil.

On March 24, the 27-year-old mayor of a small town — also in the province of Manabi — was killed along with her collaborator. Brigitte Garcia and Jairo Loor were found inside a vehicle with gunshot wounds.

On Thursday, a riot in a Guayaquil prison under military and police control left three inmates dead and four injured.

Ecuador surpassed a rate of 40 violent deaths per 100,000 inhabitants at the end of 2023, one of the highest in the region, according to police.