11 gang members identified for role in Honduran prison massacre
22nd June 2023

Honduran officials identify 11 gang members involved in female prison massacre that left 46 inmates dead, including a former police officer involved in migrant trafficking scheme

  • Former police officer Diandra Andrade was identified as one of the 46 inmates who were allegedly killed by the Barrio 18 gang at a prison in Honduras
  • Andrade had been in custody since November 2020 when she was arrested for her role with a migrant smuggling network
  • The National Police said it located at least 21 weapons used in the attack against members of the MS-13

A former police officer has been identified as one of the 46 inmates massacred by alleged members of the Barrio 18 gang at a female prison in Honduras on Tuesday.

Diandra Andrade had been in custody since November 2020 after she was arrested for allegedly forming part of a criminal network that helped with the smuggling of migrants to the United States.

Authorities accused her of using her power as a cop to transport migrants on police department vehicles in Puerto Cortes, a seaside town that borders with Guatemala. 

As of Wednesday afternoon, Andrade was among the 23 victims who coroners were able to identify. They were either shot dead or hacked with machetes. Coroners have been unable to identify the other 23 because their bodies were charred.

A man stands over a body bag after identifying the body of his relative, one of 46 prisoners who were massacred at a jail in Honduras on Tuesday

Honduran security forces surround female prisoners at a jail in Tamara, Honduras, where 46 inmates were killed by alleged members of the Barrio 18 gang. Authorities have identified 11 Barrio 18 suspects who they said targeted rivals members of the MS-13

A Honduran man stands near a pile of coffins set aside for the 46 victims of Tuesday’s deadly riot at a prison in the northwestern town of Tamara 

National Police commissioner Juan López revealed that investigators have so far identified 12 alleged members of the Barrio 18 gang for the attack on rival members of the MS-13 at the Women’s Center for Social Adaptation in the northwestern town of Tamara.

At least one of the suspects was spotted on a surveillance camera carrying a firearm. 

López added they have recovered 21 weapons, including an AR-15 and an Uzi, and two grenades that were used during the riot.

A team of seven coroners have been able to identify only 23 of the 46 victims who were shot or hacked with machetes during Tuesday’s riot. The other 23 have yet to been identified because their bodies were severely burned.

Barrio 18 members were able to subdue a group of prison guards, taking away keys to the jail cells and changing the locks before they were able to carry out the massacre.

A forensic technician arranges bodies of victims who were massacred at the Women’s Center for Social Adaptation in the northwestern town of Tamara

Forensic workers remove bags that contain the bodies of the prisoners killed at a jail in Honduras on Tuesday

Elvia Valle, director of the National Committee for the Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, told Radio Cadena Voces the suspects tracked each of the 46 victims.

‘According to versions (of the events), some prisoners entered with weapons and selectively murdered the others, there were even 4 police officers who were kidnapped,’ Valle said. 

In a leaked audio, a prison guard revealed officials were warned that gang members were planning on staging an attack after they were seen walking around the penitentiary with gasoline.

‘Yesterday (Monday, June 19) the authorities were informed that part of the (Barrio) 18 gang was carrying gasoline and that they were going to set fire to cell block 1 and the authorities ignored the situation,’ the guard said.

The riot was the result of an early morning dispute sparked by MS-13 members before their Barrio 18 counterparts sought retribution, according to a collection of audio messages reviewed by Honduran newspaper La Prensa.

Honduran soldiers guard an entrance to the Women’s Center for Social Adaptation in the northwestern town of Tamara on Tuesday after 46 inmates were murdered

Relatives of inmates provide comfort to each other outside the Women’s Center for Social Adaptation in the northwestern Honduras town of Tamara

Barrio 18 members needed just half an hour for the massacre that started by breaking into cell block 6 at 8:03 am to hunt down members of the MS-13. At 8:05 am, Barrio 18 members entered cell block 1 and opened fire on their rival. Within five minutes, the helpless MS-13 gang members sought refuge inside a bakery and rest area.

Sounds of gunfire had stopped by 8:15 am and massive clouds of smoke billowed in the air five minutes later, likely the result of mattresses that were set on fire after the Barrio 18 was able to use locked MS-13 inmates in their cells.

The ravaging flames expanded and reached a bathroom where several MS-13 members were hiding before they burned to death.

Authorities said the fire expanded to at least five holding areas in cell block 1.

Some of the other dead victims were discovered lying on the grounds of their sleeping quarters and in other areas of the jail. 

The carnage is said to be the worst atrocity at a women’s prison in recent memory, something President Xiomara Castro called ‘monstrous.’ 

The gangs, which both have roots in Los Angeles, have long battled for control of the drug trafficking and extortion industries, with the bloody conflict making Central America one of the world’s most dangerous regions.

The riot was likely in reaction to the Honduran government’s crackdown in recent months on corruption within prisons, said Julissa Villanueva, head of the penal system, describing the riot as a ‘terrorist attack’.

Measures to combat organized crime are set to be announced Wednesday, according to Castro’s office.

Since December, Honduras’ government has implemented a state of exception, following a model pursued by neighbor El Salvador, which suspends some constitutional rights and allows security forces to detain people who they consider are associated with crime.

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