18 inmates killed in uprisings at two Brazilian prisons
At least 18 inmates have died in two Brazilian prisons during clashes between rival gangs, and authorities are investigating whether the uprisings are connected.
At least 10 of the prisoners died in a mutiny in the northern state of Roraima, while eight others were killed in a similar riot in a jail about 800 miles south in Rondonia.
Roraima's justice secretary Uziel Castro said at least seven of the bodies were piled up and burned after the uprising on Sunday, while three had been beheaded - slowing efforts to identify them.
He said the clashes erupted between rival crime gangs. "Every penitentiary system in Brazil was aware that something was about to happen," he told a news conference. But he said authorities were surprised when the riots erupted on a day the prisoners had visitors.
Officers said about 50 people who were visiting the prison in Roraima state, on the border with Venezuela and Guyana, were held hostage. They were later released unharmed.
Hours later, police confirmed a similar riot killed at least eight inmates in Rondonia state's capital of Porto Velho in the Santos Pinheiro prison.
Police said the uprising there is still under investigation, but there is evidence that the riot was started by "the biggest criminal organisation of Sao Paulo state".
The organisation, Primeiro Comando da Capital, is a powerful Brazilian prison gang that has been expanding into other states and even into Bolivia and Paraguay.