Mexican authorities say 22 people have died in an attempted
jail break in the northern state of Durango that sparked a
bloody shootout between guards and inmates.
Nine guards and 13 prisoners were killed in the incident that
took place in the city of Gomez Palacio on Tuesday (local
time, said Fernando Rivas, a spokesman for Durango state
"The number of dead could increase although we hope not. A
number of guards and prisoners are currently in a critical
state," he said, noting that it was possible guards were
complicit in allowing the weapons to enter the prison.
Initial reports on Tuesday night indicated that 17 had died
in the attempted breakout.
Gomez Palacio forms part of a metropolitan area with the city
of Torreon in neighboring Coahuila, one of the Mexican states
worst hit by violent drug gangs this year. Once seen as model
for economic development, Torreon has become one of the
country's most dangerous cities.
Mexico's penal system has endured a number of high-profile
scandals in recent years, and the country's new President
Enrique Pena Nieto has pledged to reform it.
In September, more than 130 inmates at a prison in Coahuila
on the U.S. border staged a mass breakout. The state
initially said the convicts escaped through a tunnel, but
later admitted they left through the front door.
At the end of 2010, more than 140 inmates escaped a prison in
the border city of Nuevo Laredo. And this February, at least
44 people died in a fight between rival gangs at an
overcrowded prison in northern Mexico.
Many of Mexico's prisons are filled beyond capacity and
struggle to counter the influence of criminal gangs that can
use their financial muscle to corrupt those in charge.