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18 Jan, 2024 07:15

Prosecutor probing Ecuador hostage crisis assassinated (VIDEO)

The official was gunned down in broad daylight by assailants with suspected links to organized crime
Prosecutor probing Ecuador hostage crisis assassinated (VIDEO)

The Ecuadorian prosecutor tapped to investigate last week’s dramatic assault on a local television studio has been shot dead, according to the country’s attorney general. The TV station takeover was broadcast live on air, with several employees held hostage by gunmen.

Cesar Suarez, a prosecutor for Guayas province, was assassinated in Guayaquil on Wednesday, reportedly shot at least 20 times while traveling through the northern part of the city. Attorney General Diana Salazar later acknowledged the shooting in a statement.

“In the face of the murder of our colleague Cesar Suarez... I am going to be emphatic: organized crime groups, criminals, terrorists will not stop our commitment to Ecuadoran society,” she said, adding that the security forces had been placed on higher alert.

Images obtained by AFP purported to show the prosecutor’s vehicle perforated with bullet holes on a street in Guayaquil. In an interview with local media earlier this week, Suarez said he did not usually travel with a police bodyguard.

According to several media reports citing government sources, Suarez was leading the probe into the TV station attack last Tuesday, during which masked gunmen stormed the TC Television broadcast studio armed with rifles and explosives and took hostages – all with the cameras still rolling.

Following a brief standoff with law enforcement, heavily armed security forces entered the building and detained 13 assailants. National police chief Cesar Augusto Zapata Correa later said that “weapons, explosives and other evidence” were recovered at the scene, and reported no casualties during the incident.

The on-air hostage crisis came as Ecuador descended into chaos amid a wave of violence linked to organized crime, with kidnapping incidents reported at a university, a hospital, prisons, and police stations. Criminal gangs have reportedly carried out coordinated attacks across the country, setting off explosives and taking hostages, including dozens of prison guards and police officers in three cities. The attacks left at least 20 people dead.

In response, President Daniel Noboa declared a state of national emergency and deployed some 22,000 security officers to maintain order, also mandating school closures and a nationwide curfew.

Before his murder on Wednesday, Suarez had reportedly interviewed the 13 gunmen arrested following the TV studio incident and was working to determine who ordered the attack. He had previously worked on a number of other high-profile cases involving drug lords, organized crime, and government corruption.