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Narco Blog: Guards Confess Helping Inmates Escape from Mexican Prison

Narco Blog: Guards Confess Helping Inmates Escape from Mexican Prison

Photo: Zetas Kill Prisoners with Guards Help

Click Here to Enlarge Photo

Nine guards have confessed that they helped 30 inmates escape and allowed gunmen from the Los Zetas drug cartel to enter another section of the prison in the northern Mexican city of Apodaca, where they killed 44 members of the rival Gulf cartel, officials said.

“There was a deal with some of the guards. First, there was the escape between 1:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m., and minutes later the fight, which lasted about one and a half hours, took place,” Nuevo Leon state Security Council spokesman Jorge Domene said.

Nine of the 18 guards arrested in connection with the escape and massacre were questioned by prosecutors and confirmed that they helped the criminals, Domene said.

The fight started early Sunday in the prison in Apodaca, a suburb of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon’s capital.

Federal and state security forces regained control of the prison Sunday morning and the Nuevo Leon state government set up an area to assist inmates’ relatives, who gathered around the prison seeking information about loved ones.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, or OHCHR, called on the Mexican government Tuesday to investigate the deaths at the prison.

“We urge Mexican authorities to conduct an exhaustive and independent investigation of the deaths and the prisoners’ escape,” OHCHR spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said.

The prison’s warden, Jeronimo Miguel Andres Martinez; deputy warden, Juan Hernandez; and security chief, Oscar Devece Laureano, were removed from their posts and have been placed under investigation, Nuevo Leon state Gov. Rodrigo Medina confirmed Monday.

The director of Nuevo Leon’s prison system, Ernesto Garcia Guerrero, and 18 guards on duty at the time of the melee also have been fired and are being investigated.

“The loss of human life” in Sunday morning’s fight was regrettable and that support was being provided to the slain inmates’ families, Medina said.

The prison was plagued by overcrowding and most of the escaped prisoners, 25, were behind bars for “federal offenses,” including organized crime and drug trafficking, while the remaining five were being held for violations of state law, the governor said.

The fugitives are members of the Los Zetas drug cartel - including its leader in the northern city of Monterrey, arrested last year - while most of the people killed in the fight belonged to that gang’s main rival, the Gulf cartel, the governor said.

The Zetas, a band of special forces deserters turned outlaws, spent years as the armed wing of the Gulf drug cartel before going into business for themselves.

A turf war between those two drug cartels and clashes pitting criminals against the security forces claimed some 2,000 lives in Nuevo Leon last year.

Sunday’s fight produced the largest death toll from an incident of this type in the past few years in Mexico.

A fight last month at a prison in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas left 31 inmates dead.

A fire apparently caused by a short-circuit at the prison in Apodaca left 14 inmates dead and 35 others injured on May 20.

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