A military operation to disarm prison inmates erupted into a riot that left at least 50 dead and 90 injured in western Venezuela on Friday, local media reported.

Prison Services Minister Iris Varela said it was necessary to use the National Guard to conduct the search operation after receiving information that rival inmate gangs were armed.

“Due to the incidents of violence inside the Uribana prison, the inspection sweep was necessary to disarm the inmate population,” the Minister said.

Mr. Varela said inmates clashed with authorities during the search, and then staged a general riot.

“Most of the at least 50 deaths were caused by firearms,” Ruy Medina, spokesman for Central Hospital in Barquisimeto city, told Globovision news channel.

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