Ecuador Police Announce 49 People Freed From Mass Gang Kidnapping.

This photo released by the Ecuador National Police shows a group of 49 people who were released from kidnapping after being held underground in a mine.
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Ecuador’s National Police say they have freed 49 people who had been kidnapped by a criminal gang in the upland southern part of the country and held underground in a mine.

Two of the suspected kidnappers were arrested during the joint raid by the Ecuadorean security forces in a mining area in Azuay province.

The powerful Los Lobos (The Wolves) gang was behind the kidnapping, police said.
Ecuador has seen a surge in gang violence in recent years as transnational criminal organisations have expanded in to the Andean country to take advantage of its large ports to export drugs.

The victims were kidnapped in mining areas of the sector, where authorities detained two Colombians identified as Jhon Freddy G.P. and Wilver Ferney G.B., presumably linked to the illicit act, and who had no criminal record.

The agents entered the underground mine to free the hostages, where they found 46 men and 3 women, including a teenager, tied hand and foot, who stated that they had been kidnapped since July 2.

The police released a video on X (formerly known as Twitter).

The video shows heavily armed officers entering what appears to be the tunnel of a mine.Little information has so far been released about those freed.

An earlier post on social media by the Ecuadorean armed forces stated that there were three women among the kidnap victims.

Dynamite, weapons and ammunition were seized during the raid, security forces also said.

Originally a jail gang accused of instigating some of Ecuador’s bloodiest prison riots, Los Lobos has expanded its operations and now wields considerable power outside the prison system.

Its members are involved in contract killings, kidnappings for ransom and extortion.

The gang has also forged links with the Mexican Jalisco New Generation cartel (CJNG), for which it smuggles cocaine from Colombia through Ecuador’s port cities to the US and Europe.

Fuelled by drug money and armed by their Mexican allies, Los Lobos have become a formidable enemy for the Ecuadorean state.

In January, following a particularly bloody wave of killings and attacks, President Daniel Noboa deployed the army to try and quell the violence.

Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city and its most important port, has so far been the worst hit by gang-related violence but the raid in Azuay suggests that mining areas are now seen as lucrative targets by Los Lobos.

Sources: BBC, El Commercio.
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