At least 56 people were killed during a prison riot in the Brazilian state of Amazonas Sunday night, CBS News reported. The riot was "touched off" by fighting among inmates, some of whom managed to escape from the Anisio Jobim Penitentiary Complex in the Amazonas capital of Manaus.
The riot, which kicked off Sunday afternoon and came to a close Monday morning, reportedly claimed several victims who were "beheaded or dismembered." Reuters reported drug gangs were responsible for the riot, with officials describing the scene as having "decapitated bodies thrown over prison walls in the bloodiest violence in more than two decades in Brazil's overcrowded penitentiary system."
"Pedro Florencio, the Amazonas state prison secretary, said the massacre was a 'revenge killing' in a feud between criminal gangs in Brazil," reported Reuters.
A dozen prison guards were reportedly held hostage during the chaos but were ultimately not harmed.
"This is the biggest prison massacre in our state's history," Sergio Fontes, state public security secretary, told reporters. "What happened here is another chapter of the war that narcos are waging on this country and it shows that this problem cannot be tackled only by state governments."
Two additional prison riots were reported in Manaus Monday, including one with an estimated escapees total of 87. Reuters reported a total of 184 inmates escaped as a result of the three riots, though 40 have since been recaptured. One inmate, CBS News reported, shared a post-escape photo of himself on Facebook. Authorities are now investigating the possibility of a link between the outbreaks of violence at the trio of prisons.
Anisio Jobim inmates reportedly erupted following a dispute between "two of the country's biggest crime gangs," NBC News added. Multiple sources have reported the prison, built to house just 592 inmates, was housing 1,224 inmates at the time of the riot. Reuters, however, estimates the number of inmates being held at the prison was as high as 2,230. The income of the private company that owns the facility reportedly correlates directly with the volume of inmates.
Judge Luis Carlos Valois negotiated to bring the riot to an end, later taking to Facebook to describe the harrowing scene. "I've never seen anything like it in my life," Valois said. "All those bodies, the blood."