Ecuador: Gunmen storm television studio live on air
Masked gunmen broke into a live television studio in Ecuador and threatened terrified staff, the BBC reports.
Employees were forced on to the floor during the broadcast by the public television channel TC in the city of Guayaquil before the live feed cut out. Police say they later freed all the staff and made 13 arrests, showing off weapons recovered.
At least 10 people have been killed since a 60-day state of emergency began in Ecuador on Monday.
In neighbouring Peru, the government ordered the immediate deployment of a police force to the border to prevent any instability crossing into the country.
The US has said it condemns the “brazen attacks” in Ecuador and is “co-ordinating closely” with President Daniel Noboa and his Ecuadorean government and stands “ready to provide assistance”.
Ecuador is one of the world’s top banana exporters, but also exports oil, coffee, cocoa, shrimps and fish products. A surge in violence in the Andean nation, inside and outside its prisons, has been linked to fighting between drug cartels, both foreign and local, over control of cocaine routes to the US and Europe.
During Tuesday’s assault at the TV station, one gunman pointed a pump-action shotgun at the head of one of the captives, who was also threatened with a revolver.
A woman could be heard pleading, "Don't shoot, please don't shoot," AFP news agency reports, while a person could be heard screaming in apparent pain.
"Please, they came in to kill us," a TC employee told AFP in a WhatsApp message. "God don't let this happen. The criminals are on air."
One cameraman was shot in the leg, and another's arm was broken in the attack, the deputy director of news said.
"Through our earpieces the producers told us, 'Be careful, they are trying to enter, they are stealing, they are mugging us'," Jorge Rendon told the Reuters news agency.
"The doors in the studio are very thick, almost bullet-proofed, and they were trying to get in because they wanted to gain access to the studio so we would say whatever they wanted us to say," he said.
Posting video of the suspects arrested on social media - and their weapons - police said the perpetrators would be "punished for terrorist acts".
The men armed with pistols and what looked like sticks of dynamite entered the set of the TC Television network in the port city of Guayaquil during a news program that was airing live in thousands of homes across the nation and shouted that they had bombs. Noises similar to gunshots could be heard.
No one was killed in the attack, and authorities later said that all the masked intruders had been arrested, 13 in all, and would be charged with terrorism.
Authorities have not said who was behind the television station occupation, or a series of other attacks that have shaken the South American country recently, but they follow the apparent escapes from prison of two leaders of Ecuador’s most powerful drug gangs.