At least three inmates were beheaded in prison riots in the north-eastern Brazilian city of Natal. Police said that the three are among 10 prisoners killed in the unrest as some of the detainees seized control of the facility.

Skirmishes erupted at the Alcacuz jail – the largest prison in the state of Rio Grande do Norte – after a gang of inmates laid siege on the facility taking control of it. Violence quickly snowballed between rival gangs after one of the gangs stormed the section of the prison where the other one was being held.

"There are at least three inmates dead because we were able to see their heads," the prison's manager Zemilton Silva toldlocal media. Reports identify the gangs as the Sao Paulo-based First Command of the Capital (PCC) and the locally groomed Crime Union.

The death toll is likely to increase as the exact number of those killed is yet to be ascertained. The Alcacuz State Penitentiary is reportedly an overcrowded prison and is holding more than 1,000 inmates against its capacity of 620 prisoners.

Anti-riot personnel comprising the state's military forces and Special Operations Battalion attempt to negotiate a deal between members of rival gangs, but there was no positive outcome. Explosions and gunshots were also heard at the facility, but inmate has escaped, reports said.

This is the fourth such prison riot taking place in Brazil since the beginning of this year and the latest deaths put the number of fatalities at around 100. Riots in overcrowded prisons in Brazil have been taking place as gangs take control the facilities. The latest surge in the violence is increasing pressure on the government to address its faulty prison system.

Monte Cristo, Roraima
Police cars drive to the Monte Cristo, Roraima state's largest penitentiary, where around 33 people were killed during a riot, in Roraima, Brazil - file photo REUTERS/JPavani