Nine people were killed after dozens of shooters arriving in boats and taxis opened fire at a port in northern Ecuador close to the Colombian border, the public prosecutor said on Tuesday.
Interior Minister Juan Zapata told the Ecuavisa television channel that the attack was carried out by 30 heavily armed people and related to organised crime gangs.
He said the attackers arrived in two boats and in vehicles.
Zapata said there were between 1,500 and 2,000 people in the port at the time of the morning shooting.
The attack happened because fishermen “preferred the security” of one criminal organization and were targeted by another in retaliation, added Zapata.
In a tweet, the public prosecutor said “seven bodies were recovered from the Artisanal Fishing Port” in Esmeraldas district, and two more from a nearby health center, and taken to the local morgue.
One of the taxis used to transport attackers was found abandoned in the port and was seized by police, the prosecutor said in another tweet.
Impoverished Esmeraldas province has been under a state of emergency since March 3 due to high levels of crime and violence.
Ecuador is located between Colombia and Peru, the world’s two largest producers of cocaine, much of which is sent to the United States and Europe from Ecuadoran ports.
Consequently, Ecuador has seen a recent rise in violence and murders related to drug trafficking.
Its murder rate almost doubled from 14 per 100,000 citizens in 2021 to 25 a year later.