Seven die in Guatemala prison riot

FRAIJANES, Guatemala Sat Nov 22, 2008 5:12pm EST

Riot police take control of the Pavoncito prison in Guatemala City November 22, 2008. At least five inmates died in a brutal prison fight between gang members in Guatemala on Saturday and authorities struggled to regain control of the jail, emergency services said. REUTERS/Daniel LeClair

Riot police take control of the Pavoncito prison in Guatemala City November 22, 2008. At least five inmates died in a brutal prison fight between gang members in Guatemala on Saturday and authorities struggled to regain control of the jail, emergency services said.

Credit: Reuters/Daniel LeClair

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FRAIJANES, Guatemala (Reuters) - Seven inmates were murdered, most of them beheaded, in a brutal prison fight between gang members in Guatemala on Saturday, authorities said.

Prisoners at the Pavoncito prison, in the town of Fraijanes, 43 miles south of the capital, mutilated and decapitated five rivals, putting a head on a stick in a gruesome sight that could be seen from outside the prison. Two other inmates were killed in the fight.

The rioting began when prisoners were transferred to Pavoncito on Friday from another prison.

"This is a dispute between prisoners belonging to different gangs, who bring their conflicts with them when they are locked up," Rudy Esquivel, the prison spokesman told Reuters.

Police and prison authorities regained control of the jail on Saturday afternoon. Pavoncito houses more than 900 prisoners convicted mostly of drug trafficking, murder and robbery.

Uprisings in overcrowded Central American prisons are frequent.

In May, inmates at the Chimaltenango prison in Guatemala decapitated a senior prison official during a riot that began after two women were caught smuggling drugs into the jail.

Guatemala is one of the most violent countries in Latin America and thousands of people are killed annually. Its penitentiary system is corrupt, with gangs and drug traffickers often running their criminal empires from behind bars.

(Reporting by Sarah Grainger)

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