Ecuador sees rise in violence as bomb threat evacuates busy capital area

  • A bomb threat in Ecuador’s capital, Quito, led to the evacuation of an area near a bus station after authorities were alerted about a backpack with an alleged explosive in a garbage can.
  • The backpack, upon inspection, was found to not contain any explosives.
  • In the city of Coca, unknown suspects set fire to a nightclub, resulting in the deaths of at least two people and injuries to nine others.

A bomb threat sent an anti-explosives unit scrambling into a bustling area of Ecuador’s tense capital Thursday while authorities in a western city responded to a nightclub arson that killed two people, as the South American country staggers under a spike in violence.

Police in the capital, Quito, said they were forced to evacuate people from the area surrounding the Playón de la Marín bus station when they were alerted about a backpack with an alleged explosive placed in a garbage can.

The backpack turned out to not have any explosives, authorities said, but it followed five similar incidents in the capital Wednesday with actual explosives. Explosives packed in two vehicles, at a pedestrian bridge and near a prison, caused minor damage but no deaths or injuries.


Meanwhile, authorities told reporters that unknown suspects set fire to a nightclub in the Amazon city of Coca, which killed at least two people and injured nine others. The blaze also spread to 11 nearby stores, officials said. The investigation is ongoing.

Ecuador explosion

Police carry out a controlled explosion of a suspicious vehicle parked a block from El Inca prison, in Quito, Ecuador, on Jan. 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Carlos Noriega)

Ecuador is the grips of a crime wave blamed on drug trafficking gangs, and President Daniel Noboa declared an emergency and a virtual war on the gangs earlier in the week. Ecuadoreans worry that violence will only escalate in a country where a presidential candidate was assassinated last year.

Gang members in prisons throughout the country have taken corrections personnel hostage since Sunday, when the leader of one of the country’s most powerful drug gangs vanished from prison.


On Thursday, inmates managed to increase to 178 the number of corrections personnel they are holding hostage, according to the prisons agency.

A union that represents prison employees has asked officials to guarantee the “physical and psychological integrity” of the hostages.

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