A man in Ecuador was forcibly strapped with dynamite by unknown assailants on Thursday, leading to a tense hours-long standoff as the police attempted to remove the homemade explosives and deactivate them.
The man, whose name has not been released, reportedly worked as a security guard at a jewelry store in the port city of Guayaquil. Differing accounts by local media claimed that either the security guard, or the jewelry store’s owner, had refused to pay local criminals who were trying to extort the business. Authorities confirmed that the man worked at the store and did not put the bombs on himself, but said they are still investigating the motive and identities of the alleged perpetrators.
Videos began circulating on social media Thursday morning of the panicked man pacing around on a street corner near a busy market. Authorities quickly quarantined the area and sent their national police bomb squad. After reportedly three hours of working on removing the dynamite, the police were able to successfully detach the homemade bomb, get the man to safety, and execute a controlled explosion of the device without injury.
“We were scared when we saw him,” Luis Molina, one of the first witnesses who encountered the man on Thursday and notified authorities, told Ecuadorian newspaper El Universo. “The guy didn’t know whether to move or not, he was desperate, he was trembling. We all ran to a [police officer] that was in the area and alerted him.”
It’s unclear who targeted the man and the business, but another video shared on social media allegedly showed several men chasing the guard under the cover of darkness, and kidnapping him. The man reportedly was held for several hours overnight, then strapped with the explosives, and dropped off in front of the store. Authorities said that already in 2023, there have been 40 reported attacks involving explosives in Guayaquil, but this was the first ever case where they’d been forcibly attached to a human.
Guayaquil, located on the Guayas River roughly 260 miles from the capital of Quito, has become the one of the epicenters of rising violence and connected to the drug trade in Ecuador. In September 2021, over 100 people died during a deadly riot in a prison essentially controlled by the inmates.
The use of bombs and explosives by criminal groups has become a common tactic used to instill fear in enemies, and also outright attacking them. Five car bombings took place in Guayaquil in May 2022 alone. Less than two weeks ago, five letter bombs were mailed to journalists working at TV and radio stations around Ecuador, including three in Guayaquil, although only one exploded. One journalist was injured in the attack.