Standoff at Brazil prison where 26 killed over weekend

NATAL, Brazil (AP) " Inmates wielding knives, machetes and cellphones held their ground Friday at a prison in northeast Brazil where 26 were recently killed.

Tensions at the Alcacuz prison outside the city of Natal remained high a day after inmates from rival gangs fought in the yard and set up doors and mattresses as barriers.

Several inmates were injured, but authorities had not regained control of the prison and thus couldn't provide specifics. Meanwhile, there were fears that more violence would spill over into the city, where 20 buses have been burned over two days.

"No one is giving us information about the situation inside," complained Luciana Apolinario, one of the mostly women camped outside. Apolinario, whose son is serving a drug-trafficking sentence, said families were learning about what was happening from prisoners with phones.

Latin America's largest nation has experienced a wave of prison killings in recent weeks, with at least 126 dead since the beginning of the year.

At the Alcacuz prison, inmates from the local Northern Syndicate gang stayed in the yard, waving their weapons while periodically participating in prayer and song.

Meanwhile, inmates from the First Command, Brazil's largest criminal network with its base in Sao Paulo, periodically went inside their pavilion.

Stretchers were dropped into an area of the prison controlled by First Command members, and three injured inmates were removed by being pulled up. One was shot in the neck, the bullet still lodged in his body.

While they were being pulled up, the women watching from outside screamed. Some had their faces covered, underscoring the fear that the beef between gangs could spill out of the prison.

Guards and military police have not gone inside the penitentiary, instead periodically breaking up fights by shooting tear gas from above.

Army soldiers were expected to arrive late Friday after the governor of the state of Rio Grande do Norte called for their help to help maintain control.

A riot squad briefly entered the prison on Thursday evening to remove several inmates who had been injured during clashes. But they did not send inmates back to their cells.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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