Ecuadoran police on Wednesday arrested a suspect in a weekend blast that killed five people in the port city of Guayaquil and was blamed by the government on organized crime, the interior minister said Wednesday.

The suspect "admitted to being involved in the terrorist attack" in the neighborhood of Cristo del Consuelo, minister Patricio Carrillo said on Twitter.

The man had "a history of murder and robbery," he added.

Five people died and 17 were wounded -- two seriously -- when two people on a motorcycle threw a bag of explosives into a restaurant in Guayaquil on Sunday.

"This is the type of crime that now faces #Ecuador, a clear message for all: either we act as a... determined State or the consequences will be very serious," said Carrillo.

Sandwiched between Colombia and Peru, the world's two largest cocaine producers, Ecuador is facing a drug-fueled crime wave that has produced scenes of horror, including decapitated bodies hanging from bridges.

Ecuador in 2020 accounted for 6.5 percent of all the cocaine seized in the world, according to United Nations figures.

Tensions between rival drug gangs have reached Ecuador's prisons, where clashes and massacres have claimed at least 400 lives since February 2021.

Last year, the country of 18 million inhabitants registered a murder rate of 14 per 100,000 people -- almost double the previous year although not among the highest in the world.

Guayaquil, the main port and commercial hub of Ecuador with 2.8 million inhabitants, is the city with the highest number of homicides -- almost a third of the national total.

RTL

The government blamed the explosion on organized crime / © AFP

President Guillermo Lasso declared a 30-day state of emergency in the country's second largest city after Sunday's attack, which damaged eight houses and four cars.

Wednesday's arrest also saw police net a cache of drugs, guns, ammunition and a grenade, according to Carrillo.

So far this year, 861 people have been killed in the Guayaquil metropolitan area.