In Ecuador, 3 police colonels are accused of plot to kill president

QUITO, Oct 2 (AFP) - Soldiers were on patrol in Ecuador's main cities today following the arrest of three senior police officers charged with attempting to kill President Rafael Correa during a police mutiny.

The officers, all police colonels, were arrested on Friday for their role in the gunfire and street clashes on Thursday that killed eight people and left 274 wounded, the prosecutor's office told AFP. The unrest began in Quito as a protest against cuts to bonus payments linked to seniority, and spread to police stations in five other provinces.

“There is calm in the country and calm at police stations,” Interior Minister Gustavo Jalkh told reporters Friday. The head of the national police, General Freddy Martinez, resigned on Friday over the incident. Officials did not name the three detained police colonels, but local media identified them as Manuel Rivadeneira, Julio Cesar Cueva and Marcelo Echeverria.

In a television interview late Friday, Correa blamed supporters of Lucio Gutierrez -- an ex-army colonel who was president 2003-2005 -- for the chaos, and said the mutinous police wanted to kill him. “Their strategy to destabilize the government failed, so Plan B was to assassinate the president,” Correa said.
“One of the police officers killed, a sergeant, was in my escort. The bullet was aimed at me,” Correa said.

Protesting police besieged Correa inside a hospital for some 12 hours on Thursday. The sergeant protecting Correa was shot dead moments after soldiers and an elite police unit rescued him from the hospital.

During the rescue mutinous police fired five times on his armored car, and also fired on four other cars in entourage, Correa said. The goal was to create chaos leading to violence that would run out of control and provide an excuse for a coup. But the plan failed because the armed forces did not support the police, Correa said.

Correa said he was “deeply saddened” by the events and ordered three days of national mourning for the victims. Only 600 police officers out of a force of some 40,000 took part in the uprising, according to Deputy Interior Minister Edwin Jarrin. But sources close to the revolt told AFP at least 2,300 officers had joined the protest.

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