Prison Riot in Brazil Leaves 16 Inmates Decapitated and Dozens More Killed

More than 50 inmates were killed during a prison riot in northern Brazil on Monday, according to local authorities.

Jarbas Vasconcelos, superintendent of the penitentiary system in the state of Para, said 16 of the 52 inmates who died in the Altamira prison were decapitated.

The rest are believed to have died from asphyxiation due to the prisoners setting fire to part of the facility, state news agency Agencia Brasil reported.

The riot began when a group of prisoners stormed a prison wing controlled by a rival faction, Agencia Brasil reported, citing a statement from the state of Para’s penitentiary system authorities.

Two correctional guards taken captive were released.

The incident is the latest in a string of deadly violence that has plagued Brazil’s prisons in recent months.

In May, 55 inmates were killed in gang-related riots at four prisons in western Brazil.

The local prison authorities said at the time the deaths were a result of violent clashes among rival factions within the same drug gang, known as the Family of the North.

Human rights groups have accused the government of doing too little to prevent the violence at prisons that have become recruitment centers for gangs — and even facilitating clashes by allowing the cells to become overcrowded.

The clashes pose a challenge to the new far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, but could also end up giving his approval rating a boost as he is seen as tough on crime and has previously vowed to crack down on criminal gangs and prison violence.

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