Brazil prison riot kills at least 56 in Amazonas state

A riot in an overcrowded prison in northern Brazil has left at least 56 inmates dead, many of them decapitated, officials say.

The unrest in Manaus, in Amazonas state, started on Sunday after a fight between rival gangs, police said.

The violence ended 17 hours later, when the inmates surrendered their weapons and freed unharmed the last of 12 guards they had taken hostage. Brazil has the world’s fourth-largest prison population.

There are some 600,000 inmates, and overcrowding is a serious problem. Reports said the capacity of the Anisio Jobim Penitentiary Centre, the biggest in Amazonas, was for 454 inmates, but it had 1,224 men.

When the riot began, six headless bodies were thrown over the perimeter fence. Pictures showed bloodied and burned bodies stacked in a concrete prison yard and piled in carts.

The state public security secretary, Sergio Fontes, said rival gangs operating inside and outside the prison had been fighting for control over drug trafficking.

The violence, he added, appeared to be a message from Family of the North (FDN), a powerful local gang, to rivals from the First Capital Command (PCC), one of Brazil’s largest gangs, whose base is in Sao Paulo, in the south-east.

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