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QUITO: At least eight people were killed and eight others wounded after an armed attack in southwestern Ecuador on Saturday, police said, the latest escalation of violence in the country.

“Several armed subjects aboard a vehicle” opened fire on a group of people in the port city of Guayaquil at around 6:55 pm (2355 GMT), police said in a statement.

“Two people died instantly” and several others died “due to the severity of their injuries” after being taken to health centers, the statement said.

The eight wounded are under police protection, it added. It is the second mass killing Ecuador has suffered in two days.

Five tourists in the seaside resort of Ayampe were kidnapped and killed on Friday by drug traffickers who mistook them for members of a rival gang, according to police reports.

President Daniel Noboa expressed his “solidarity with the families” of the Ayampe victims on Saturday.

“This is a sign that narcoterrorism and its allies are looking for spaces to terrorize us, but they will not succeed,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Also on Friday, four people, including a military officer, were shot dead in the city of Manta, 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Ayampe.

Once considered a bastion of peace in Latin America, Ecuador has been plunged into crisis after years of expansion by transnational cartels that use its ports to ship drugs to the United States and Europe.

The murder rate quadrupled from 2018 to 2022 and a record 220 tons of drugs were seized last year.

Ecuador roiled by on-air take-over of TV studio by gunmen, other violence

In January, Noboa imposed a state of emergency and declared the country was in “a state of war” against gangs after a wave of violence following the prison escape of “Los choneros” gang leader Adolfo “Fito” Macias.

Since then, the military has been deployed in the streets and taken control of the country’s prisons, where a string of gang riots in recent years has left around 460 people dead.

Last Sunday, Brigitte Garcia, the 27-year-old mayor of coastal San Vicente, was found shot to death along with the municipality’s communications director, Jairo Loor.

And a riot in a Guayaquil prison on Wednesday left three prisoners dead and six wounded.

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