Rio De Janeiro — Dozens of relatives of inmates killed during a prison riot in northern Brazil have gathered at a coroner’s office to identify the 57 victims. Workers at the forensic institute in Altamira asked local authorities to bring in water, food and medical assistance for the anguished crowd of family members Tuesday.

Authorities said clashes erupted Monday when the local Comando Classe A gang attacked a wing of the prison where members of a rival, Rio de Janeiro-based gang were held. At least 16 of those who died were decapitated.”Leaders of the (Comando Classe A) set fire to a cell belonging to one of the prison’s pavilions, where members of the (Comando Vermelho) were located,” the statement read.
State prisons chief Jarbas Vasconcelos said the fire had spread rapidly with inmates held in old container units that had been adapted for the prison while another building is under construction. The fire prevented police forces from entering the building for several hours, he told a news conference. Two prison staff members were held hostage, but eventually released.”It was a targeted attack. The aim was to show that it was a settling of accounts between the two groups, not a protest or rebellion against the prison system,” Vasconcelos said. Authorities have not found any firearms following the riot, only makeshift knives. Prison authorities said 46 inmates will be transferred to other prisons, 10 of which will go to stricter federal facilities. Brazil’s over-packed prisons  President Jair Bolsonaro was elected on the promise of curbing widespread violence in Brazil, including in the country’s often overcrowded, out-of-control prisons.  The Associated Press obtained a July 2019 report from the National Justice Council that it says was filed by a local judge in charge of the facility, showing that the prison had 343 detainees. It is intended to house a maximum of 163.