44 dead in Mexican prison after riots

Violent battle between drug-cartel rivals leaves 44 inmates dead

APODACA, Mexico | February 20, 2012

A violent weekend battle between drug-cartel rivals at an overcrowded Mexican prison left 44 inmates dead and another 30 at-large, an official said Monday.

Prisoners from the Zetas, one of Mexico's most brutal drug cartels, and the rival Gulf cartel, the country's oldest organized-crime group, were killed and injured in the riot, Nuevo Leon state public security spokesman Jorge Domene Zambrano told the Mexican newspaper El Universal.

Domene said 750 inmates from one cellblock invaded another cellblock of 750 in a prison in Apodaca, near the city of Monterrey.

The riot started at 2 a.m. Sunday and lasted several hours before state and federal police regained control, Domene told The New York Times.

Domene put the death toll at 44 with 30 others having escaped. The Blog del Narco, a Web site that documents the Mexican drug war, had cited sources as saying at least 70 had died.

The dead were stabbed, beaten and hit with stones, Domene said. Some prisoners were tied up and burned alive, the Blog del Narco reported.

At least 120 people were injured, with some victims not receiving medical attention, the blog said.

No firearms were found among the prisoners, Domene told The Wall Street Journal.

The prison was built to house about 1,700 inmates but held an estimated 2,700, he told the Journal.

Nuevo Leon Gov. Rodrigo Medina said the prison's director and 18 guards were relieved of their duties while their actions were investigated, CNN reported.

Medina said a reward of 10 million pesos ($785,000) was being offered for information leading to the recapture of the missing prisoners. He said the initial indications were the missing inmates were members of the Zetas.

The Zetas and Gulf cartels, once the same organization, are normally securely separated, he said. Their rupture in 2010 led to a bloody turf war, predominantly in the states of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas, which borders Texas.

The latest outbreak of violence was the deadliest in a series of prison riots in northeastern Mexico, including one last month in the Gulf Coast city of Altamira in Tamaulipas in which 31 prisoners were killed and another in the Tamaulipas city of Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville, Texas, in October that killed 20.

The latest riot came four days after a fire at an overcrowded penitentiary in Comayagua, Honduras, killed at least 382 people, making it the world's deadliest prison fire. The second-most-deadly was at the now-closed Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus on April 21, 1930, which killed 322.

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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