QUITO, Ecuador — A shooting attack during a birthday party at a bar in Ecuador on Saturday left eight people dead, police said, as the country experiences an escalating wave of gang-fueled violence.

It was unclear if the attack in the coastal province of Santa Elena was directed at the person whose was holding the celebration.

Local police said the attackers rode up in a taxi and two motorcycles. They opened fire at the bar in the town of Chanduy, 185 miles (300 kilometers) southwest of Quito. Some of the victims were found outside the bar.

The victims included five men and three women and none of the victims had criminal records, police said. Santa Elena has become one of Ecuador’s most violent regions, in part because it has three ports. Seaports are often used to smuggle drugs.

Local gangs, which in some cases work with Mexican cartels, have caused homicides to increase significantly in recent years.

Ecuador saw at least 7,600 killings in 2023, up from about 4,400 in 2022. So far this year, there have been about 1,875 homicides in Ecuador.

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