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At least 52 dead amid mass decapitations as gangs clash in Brazilian prison

Bloody clashes between organised crime groups at a Brazilian prison have left at least 52 prisoners dead.

Authorities say 16 victims were decapitated while others were asphyxiated.

The death count is likely to rise once authorities have searched all the relevant areas in Altamira prison in the north of the country.

State prisons chief Jarbas Vasconcelos said the fight broke out at around 7am while breakfast was being served.

He said inmates set fires to keep authorities away from certain parts of the facility for about five hours.

The killings echoed those of 55 inmates in a series of riots in several prisons in the neighbouring state of Amazonas in May.

In early 2017, more than 120 inmates died in prisons across several northern states when rival gangs clashed over control of drug trafficking routes in the region.

The violence lasted several weeks, spreading to various states.

In many of Brazil’s prisons, badly outnumbered guards struggle to retain power over an ever-growing population of inmates who run criminal activities from behind bars.

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