Warning: This story contains graphic descriptions.
San Paulo: A bloody clash between two prison gangs has left at least 52 inmates dead, 16 of them decapitated, in the northern Brazilian state of Para.
Prison riots are an all-too-familiar problem in Brazil. Police gather outside the Anisio Jobim Prison Complex in May. Credit:AP
State authorities said the riot began around 7am on Monday in a prison in the city of Altamira and involved rival gangs.
Prisoners belonging to the Comando Classe A gang set fire to a cell containing inmates who belonged to the Comando Vermelho, or Red Command, gang, Para's state government said in a statement.
Two guards were taken hostage but later released.
"It was a targeted act," state prison director Jarbas Vasconcelos said in the statement, adding there was no prior intelligence that suggested an attack would take place.
"The aim was to show that it was a settling of accounts between the two gangs."
Videos circulating online showed inmates celebrating as they kicked decapitated heads across the floor. Reuters was unable to independently verify the footage.
In May, at least 55 inmates died during an attack in a lockup in the northern state of Amazonas. In 2017, weeks of violence in Amazonas resulted in 150 prison deaths as local gangs backed by Brazil's two largest drug factions went to war.
Brazil's justice ministry said in a statement that it was working with Para state authorities to identify those behind the latest attack, adding it had opened up space in Brazil's federal prison system where those gang leaders would be sent.
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