Gun shoot
The gruesome attack, which one witness described as a shooting, occurred at a mechanic shop in the city’s southwest. Representation image. Douglas Sacha/Gettyimages

The public prosecutor's office and police have confirmed that at least 10 people have been killed in an armed attack overnight in Guayaquil, Ecuador's primary port city and economic center, which is now in a state of emergency owing to rising drug violence.

Police reported that a five-year-old girl was among the three injured victims.

According to a tweet from the Ecuadorean Prosecutor's Office, a rifle and 9mm firearms were discovered at the scene.

"We believe that this has to do with a struggle between organized criminal groups over the fight for territorial control," National Police Commander William Villaroel told a news conference.

"At the moment, our investigation and intelligence units are carrying out operational actions in order to identify those responsible," the National Police tweeted earlier on Sunday. There were no immediate arrests.

The horrifying event took place at a repair shop in the southwest of the city, and one witness claimed it was a shooting, Al Jazeera reported.

People could be seen crying and hugging one another as bodies lay in bloody pools on the sidewalk, according to AFP. Police had cordoned off the area.

Upon learning of a Saturday night armed attack, Ecuador's attorney general's office tweeted that a "preliminary investigation into the murder of 10 people, following an armed attack on Saturday night" had been started.

The number of fatalities in Guayaquil, one of the country's most lethal hotspots of a territorial war between competing drug trafficking groups, was also confirmed by the local police.

The port city's position on the Pacific coast makes it a strategic launch point for shipments of drugs to the United States and Europe.

The killing is the most recent in a recent wave of violence that has seen gang- and cartel-related killings, as well as several jail riots and massacres, as law enforcement targets groups and seizes drugs.

One witness to the latest attack, who asked not to be identified, told AFP that "there was a shooting" at a location where several people had been drinking when a group of assailants "on motorcycles came and ended the lives of those who were here."

A group of attackers "on motorcycles came and took the lives of those present."

A state of emergency that has been in effect in Guayaquil since Apr. 1 enables the military to mobilize on the streets and impose curfews. The measure includes a curfew from 1 am until 5 am (06:00 until 10:00 GMT).

The government of the South American nation has granted individuals permission to possess and use firearms for personal defense in response to an uptick in crime that it has attributed to drug trafficking gangs.

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