By Jonathan Mason-June 21st, 2023.

At least 41 people, all believed to have been women, have been killed in a riot at a women’s prison in Honduras on Tuesday. Most of them were burned to death in fires that broke out after one gang set a cell alight and the fire ran out of control.

Twenty-six of the victims were burned to death and the remainder shot or stabbed at the prison in Tamara, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) northwest of the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, said Yuri Mora, the spokesman for Honduras’ national police investigation agency.

At least seven inmates were being treated at a Tegucigalpa hospital.

“The forensic teams that are removing bodies confirm they have counted 41,” said Mora.

An investigation is under way to determine how the inmates managed to smuggle automatic weapons and machetes into the jail.

President Xiomara Castro, who last year launched a crackdown on gangs known as “maras”, said on social media that she was “shocked by the monstrous murder of women” and would take “drastic measures” in response.

She has dismissed Security Minister Ramón Sabillón and replaced him with the head of the national police force, Gustavo Sánchez.

Survivors of the deadly incident told local media that it was triggered by rivalries between two of Central America’s most notorious criminal organisations: the 18th Street Gang and MS-13.

They said members of one gang had been taunting their rivals, who then set fire to the mattresses in the cell holding those taunting them.

Videos posted on social media showed a huge cloud of grey smoke rising from the women’s prison, which is located about 25km north of the capital, Tegucigalpa, and holds approximately 900 inmates.

While the warring factions are locked up in different parts of the jail, the wings are located close to each other.

The unrest broke out early in the morning local time on Tuesday.

Survivors said that many of those who died had been seeking refuge from the flames in a bathroom. Their burnt bodies were found piled on top of each other.

Others were shot dead and stabbed by gang members in the corridors and a prison courtyard.

Some of the victims are not thought to have been linked to either of the two gangs but were caught up in the incident.

Among them is a former police cadet who was serving a 15-year prison sentence after confessing to killing a fellow police officer.

Another of those killed was only days away from being released after serving her sentence for kidnapping.

Honduras is known for corruption and gang violence, which have infiltrated government institutions and seen the homicide rate soar.

Along with neighbours El Salvador and Guatemala, the country is a major transit route for cocaine coming from South America to the United States.

It also has a history of deadly prison riots, which are often linked to organised crime.

Honduras is a popular tourist destination that attracts visitors due to its natural environment, white and dark sand beaches, coral reefs, abundant flora and fauna, colonial era towns, and archaeological sites.

In 2019 Honduras received 2.8 million foreigners, half of those tourists are cruise passengers. Tourists are generally advised to stick to the beaches and attractions that offer special security for tourists.

Sources: AP News, BBC, Wikipedia.