At least 16 dead in Venezuela prison clash

CARACAS: At least 16 people were killed in a clash between inmates at a Venezuelan prison, authorities and a non-governmental organization said Tuesday.

Humberto Prado, director of the Venezuelan Prison Observatory, told AFP the brawl broke out Monday in the Maracaibo prison in the northwest of the country.

Venezuela Prison Minister Iris Varela later confirmed the 16 fatalities.

"Fifteen people were killed here, and there was one person, the 16th, who was also killed but in another area. (His death) was not part of the internal battle that was going on at the time, but also a product of violence," Varela specified.

The NGO and local news reports gave gruesome details of the state of the bodies following the confrontation, which lasted several hours.

"Some of the prisoners were dismembered," Prado said, adding some had been beheaded.

The clashes were apparently caused by rival gangs vying for control of the prison, according to press reports.

Venezuela's prisons are marred by overcrowding and violence. In many cases, they are controlled by heavily armed gangs of inmates.

According to the Venezuelan Prison Observatory, 591 inmates died in 34 jails across the country last year while another 1,132 were injured. That compares to 560 deaths and 1,457 injured in 2011.





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