Latin America & Caribbean

Mexico prison 'emptied' after deadly jailbreak attempt

Map of Mexico

Security forces have removed some 500 inmates from a prison in the northern Mexican city of Gomez Palacio after 24 people died during a foiled jailbreak.

The jail "has been totally emptied as a preventive measure," an official said, adding that the prisoners have been brought to other regional facilities.

At least 15 inmates and nine guards were killed in Wednesday's shootout as the prisoners tried to escape.

The Durango state jail has been at the centre of a series of scandals.

The latest violence erupted when guards rang the alarm bell after seeing inmates climb the prison's back fence, Public Safety Secretary Jesus Rosso said.

The prisoners then opened fire on the guard towers and the warden's office. The guards retaliated, initially shooting into the air before aiming at the inmates.

Mr Rosso said soldiers deployed to the penitentiary eventually regained control of the situation.

The prisoners have been moved to other facilities while an investigation is underway to establish how they got hold of the firearms.

The jail already made headlines in July when prison director Margarita Rojas Rodriguez and 10 of her employees were arrested on suspicion of collaborating with the Sinaloa drug cartel.

They were found guilty of allowing inmates to use the guards' weapons to carry out executions of other prisoners.

Wednesday's shootout happened a day after President Enrique Pena Nieto unveiled a six-point strategy to combat crimes linked to drug violence, kidnappings and extortions.

His plan includes a new militarised force of 10,000 officers.

However, there has currently been no mention of reviewing the country's antiquated and dangerous prisons, the BBC's Will Grant in Mexico City says.

Human rights groups say the penal system suffers from chronic overcrowding and is in urgent of an overhaul.

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