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Death toll from gang violence at Honduran women’s prison rises to 46

Authorities say they are working to identify bodies burned during Tuesday’s riots.

The death toll from this week’s riot and fire at a Honduran women’s prison has risen to 46, and dozens of families are awaiting the release of the bodies of their loved ones.

A government spokesman said on Wednesday that the death toll had risen to 46 from 41. It is not clear if all the dead are prisoners.

Yuri Mora, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, said the death toll rose as authorities identified the remains of victims, including some “burnt or reduced to ashes” after a group of gang members entered the territory of a rival gang, 900 female inmates shot people in a prison and set fire to

The shooting and burning of dozens of people, one of the deadliest instances of prison violence in modern Honduran history, underscored the significant power held by gangs and raised questions about corruption within the prison system and law enforcement.

Parts of the prison, located about 20 km (12 miles) from the capital Tegucigalpa, were destroyed during the violence on Tuesday, according to Delma Ordonez, who is representing the victims’ families.

Isa Alvarado, a spokesperson for the Directorate of Forensic Medicine, said the bodies of 23 people have been identified and handed over to their families.

Penal system chief Julisa Villanueva said on Tuesday that the attack could be linked to the government’s recent efforts to crack down on corruption within the prison system.

On Tuesday, President Xiomara Castro said he was shocked “by the complete indifference and tolerance of the security authorities … in the horrific killing of women”.

Castro fired Security Minister Ramon Sablon and is expected to announce new efforts to combat organized crime later Wednesday.

Since December, the Honduran government has operated under a “state of exception,” which has suspended basic civil liberties and given police wide discretion to make arrests in the name of fighting crime.

In neighboring El Salvador, President Nayeb Bukel has used similar measures for more than a year to crack down on gangs that have extorted the population for years, winning considerable popularity in the process.

However, human rights groups have criticized the move as consolidating power, suppressing dissent and sanctioning crimes such as torture and extrajudicial killings.

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