Horror: Cartel Gunmen Storm Live TV Broadcast In Ecuador

Armed gunmen stormed a live television studio in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on Tuesday in a dramatic escalation of a violent crisis that has the South American nation in its grip. It came as the government attempted to bring the hammer down on cartels and organized gangs.

The masked invaders screamed “no police!” as they took hostages in front of rolling cameras. Gunshots were fired as terrified workers scrambled for cover.

Police rolled in and arrested 13 armed suspects. Photos were posted on social media of the throng of young males with their hands bound behind their backs.

The nation recently endured a rash of police kidnappings that shocked the public. This led to President Daniel Noboa decreeing that 22 Ecuadorian gangs are terrorist organizations and attempting to break their control over much of society.

In the frightening Tuesday incident, National Police Commander Cesar Zapata said authorities recovered two grenades and other explosives when they forced their way into the building.

Jorge Rendon is the deputy director of the news-related program that came under attack. He told reporters afterward, “Thank God, we are alive, because it was an extremely violent attack.”

Other parts of the country suffered from gang warfare as at least seven police officers were kidnapped. There were also several explosions reported.

President Noboa took office in November on pledges to crack down on rampant cartel violence related to the drug trade. The day before the brazen television station attack, he declared a 60-day state of emergency.

This came in response to an outbreak of prison violence that saw several guards taken hostage by inmates. There was also a successful escape attempt over the weekend by notorious Los Choneros gang chief Adolfo Macias.

That criminal organization was one of the outfits declared to be terror groups on Tuesday.

Part of the motivation for the latest wave of violence is believed to be Noboa’s plan to construct a high-security prison to house gang leaders. The terrorism decree also allowed the gangs to be targeted by Ecuador’s military forces.

South American governments quickly rallied around Noboa’s administration in the face of gang attacks. Peru declared an emergency on its border with Ecuador, and Brazil, Columbia and Chile expressed their backing for the embattled president.