Fighting erupted at a jail in the northern port town of Tela, Honduras, leaving at least 18 inmates dead and 16 injured on Saturday.
The National Penitentiary Institute said 17 prisoners had died at the facility and another died in hospital, with local media describing the unrest as gang violence.
It was not clear exactly what sparked the melee at the prison in Tela, about 120 miles (200 kilometres) from Tegucigalpa, the capital of the small Central American country.
A prison spokesperson, Digna Aguilar, said authorities had to enter the area carefully “for fear of being among the victims” because several inmates carried firearms. That slowed the investigation.
The combined national security force known as Fusina said that five 9-millimetre guns, as well as ammunition, had been seized from the inmates.
Prison officials had reported initially only three deaths, but the toll quickly rose. A statement Saturday identified 14 of the dead and 15 wounded by name.
Forensic workers placed the bodies in plastic bags and transported them to the judicial morgue of San Pedro Sula to be autopsied.
An AFP photographer at the scene saw shocked relatives arriving to claim the bodies.
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, grappling with a recent wave of prison killings, had ordered the army and the police on Tuesday to take full control of the country’s 27 prisons, which are severely overcrowded with some 21,000 inmates.
But as of Friday, the military had yet to take complete control of the Tela detention centre, according to Aguilar.
Hernandez announced the crackdown after the killings on December 14 of five members of feared gang Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) by a fellow detainee at the high-security prison in La Tolva, 25 miles east of Tegucigalpa.
That came just a day after Pedro Idelfonso Armas, the warden of El Pozo — the country’s central high-security prison, in the western city of Santa Barbara — was shot dead in the south of the country.
The Ministry of Security had suspended Armas shortly before that amid an investigation into his presence during the October 26 killing by prisoners of Magdaleno Meza, a drug kingpin whose confession and notebooks linked him to a brother of the president, Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez.
Meza’s account books were entered as evidence in the New York trial of Hernandez, who was subsequently convicted on four counts of drug trafficking. He faces sentencing — possibly for life — in January.
President Hernandez condemned the conviction of his younger brother, saying it was based on “the testimony of confessed assassins.”
A video circulating on social media shows the 52-year-old Armas talking with Meza when prison guards opened a locked gate, allowing a dozen inmates to burst in and stab and fatally shoot the drug trafficker.
Also, a lawyer who had represented Meza and other members of the Valle Valle drug cartel, Jose Luis Pinto, was killed in an attack December 9 in a town northwest of Tegucigalpa. That killing remains under investigation.
Honduras has been plagued by drug trafficking, gangs, poverty and corruption.
It suffers from one of the highest homicide rates in the world outside areas of armed conflict, having registered 41.2 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2018.
To fight this scourge, President Hernandez created a military police force financed by a new tax and built special prisons for gang members.
The sky-high crime rate has been a key factor behind a wave of migration toward the United States, notably by minors who say they fear being forced into gangs.
We won’t yield to sanctions pressure over Ukraine, says Putin.￼
NEWYORKGM– Western sanctions will never make Russia change its position on Ukraine, the Kremlin said on Tuesday.
Responding to a barrage of Western sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said: “They are counting on forcing us to change our position. This is out of the question.”
Peskov told reporters that President Vladimir Putin had been briefed on a first round of talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials on Monday but it was too early to judge the outcome.
There were no plans for talks between Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, he said, adding that Moscow still recognised Zelenskiy as Ukraine’s leader.
Zelenskiy, he said, could prevent further casualties if he gave the command to lay down arms.
Ukraine has refused to surrender and its forces have put up strong resistance to Russia’s assault from the north, east and south, which Moscow describes as a special operation to demilitarise and “denazify” the country – a justification dismissed by Kyiv and the West as war propaganda.
Peskov dismissed allegations of Russian strikes on civilian targets and the use of cluster bombs and vacuum bombs as fakes. He categorically denied that Russia had committed war crimes.
Ukraine says large numbers of civilians have been killed. Peskov said, without providing evidence, that Ukrainian nationalist groups were using people as human shields.
Peskov declined to comment on whether the Kremlin considers the capital Kyiv to be under the control of Nazis, referring the question to the Russian military.
Iran defies US sanction, sends five fuel tankers to Venezuela!
he news breaking at this hour is that the Iranian regime sent five Oil tankers to deliver a much-needed fuel to Venezuela. The report has it that one of the vessels entered the Venezuelan waters, a moment ago.
The news breaking at this hour is that the Iranian regime sent five Oil tankers to deliver much-needed gasoline to Venezuela. The report has it that one of the vessels entered the Venezuelan waters, a moment ago.
The oil tanker Fortune encountered no signs of US interference as it eased through Caribbean waters toward the Venezuelan coast late on Saturday. Venezuelan officials celebrated the arrival.
In a tweet, the Venezuelan foreign minister Jorge Arreaza said, “Iran and Venezuela have always supported each other in times of difficulty,” “Today, the first ship with gasoline arrives for our people.”
Hassan Rouhani, had earlier warned of retaliatory measures, should the Trump administration takes any action, that would impede the deliveries. The story is still developing. Please expect more updates.
Fact Checks’: Medical journal refutes Trump’s claims about the WHO
A British medical journal Tuesday rebutted claims by President Donald Trump that the World Health Organization had consistently ignored reports of the virus spreading in China in early December, including ones featured in its publication.
In a letter published Monday, Trump’s excoriated WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, saying the organization had “failed to independently investigate credible reports that conflicted directly with the Chinese government’s official accounts.”
“This statement is factually incorrect,” The Lancet, a general medical journal, responded in a statement. “The Lancet published no report in December 2019, referring to a virus or outbreak in Wuhan or anywhere else in China.”
The journal said the first reports it published were on January 24, adding that the scientists and physicians who led one of the studies were all from Chinese institutions.
“They worked with us to quickly make information about this new epidemic outbreak and the disease it caused fully and freely available to an international audience,” the statement said.
A second Lancet paper, also published on January 24, described the first scientific evidence confirming person-to-person transmission of the new virus, according to the journal. This report included scientists and physicians from Hong Kong and mainland China, it added.
The Lancet said allegations leveled against WHO in Trump’s letter were “serious and damaging” to efforts to strengthen international cooperation to control this pandemic.
“It is essential that any review of the global response is based on a factually accurate account of what took place in December and January,” the publication added.
Trump’s letter came as tensions ran high at the WHO’s general assembly Monday, with calls for an independent inquiry of the health body’s handling of the crisis and further criticism from the U.S. delegation.
Some observers say the WHO was far too credulous in believing Beijing’s reassurances, which it then amplified uncritically to the wider world.
In his letter, Trump also accused WHO of “missteps” and threatened to make the freeze on U.S. funding for the organization permanent.
Trump’s letter, which was posted to his Twitter account and cane during the World Health Assembly, accused the organization of an “alarming lack of independence from the People’s Republic of China.”
190,000 Africans may die of COVID-19 in 2020 – WHO
On Thursday, the World Health Organisation warned that Africa could lose up to 190,000 lives to COVID-19 in 2020 if containment measures fail.
The UN health agency cited a new study by its regional office in Brazzaville which found that between 83,000 and 190,000 could die and 29 to 44 million be infected during the period.
The research is based on prediction modelling and covers 47 countries with a total population of one billion, the WHO said in a statement.
“The model predicts the observed slower rate of transmission, lower age of people with severe disease and lower mortality rates compared to what is seen in the most affected countries in the rest of the world,” the statement said.
“The lower rate of transmission, however, suggests a more prolonged outbreak over a few years.”
WHO Africa Director Matshidiso Moeti said that “while COVID-19 likely won’t spread as exponentially in Africa as it has elsewhere in the world, it likely will smoulder in transmission hotspots”.
“COVID-19 could become a fixture in our lives for the next several years unless a proactive approach is taken by many governments in the region,” he added. “We need to test, trace, isolate and treat.”
Smaller countries as well as Algeria, South Africa and Cameroon were at exceptionally high risk unless effective containment measures were in force, the WHO said.
Africa has so far recorded 53,334 cases and 2,065 fatalities – out of a global death toll of nearly 267,000 -according to an AFP tally.
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