Latest update: 17/12/2010
Massive Mexican jail break near US border
More than 140 inmates escaped from a Mexican jail on Friday in the north-eastern city of Nuevo Laredo near the US border, in what is the latest breach of the country's notoriously insecure prison system.
By NEWS WIRES (text)
REUTERS - More than 140 inmates escaped from a prison near the U.S. border on Friday, the latest breach of Mexico's notoriously insecure prisons that are helping to feed a brutal drug war.
The 149 prisoners slowly filed out the main entrance of the prison on the outskirts of Nuevo Laredo in the early hours of Friday, said two police sources in northern Tamaulipas state.
"They left by the front door, which points to complicity of the prison guards," said a police source who declined to be named for security reasons.
The attorney general's office confirmed the prison break in the town across from Laredo, Texas, but gave no more details.
"A large number escaped, but we are still checking prison lists to see just how many," a spokesman said.
Soldiers and federal police surrounded the prison, which is Nuevo Laredo's only state-level facility. Many of the prisoners are believed to be serving sentences for drug trafficking, police said.
The escape follows a string of breaches across northern Mexico, underscoring the challenges that President Felipe Calderon faces as he battles powerful drug cartels.
Calderon, who sent thousands of troops across the country to fight drug gangs, has vowed to clean up prisons that in the past have allowed drug lords to live in luxury or escape when they please. But the conservative leader has struggled to contain corruption and lawlessness in the prison system.
In September, 85 prisoners escaped from a prison in the nearby border city of Reynosa. Authorities discovered in July that prison officials had allowed convicts out of a prison in northwestern Durango state to carry out revenge attacks before returning to cells for the night.
Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, head of the Sinaloa cartel and Mexico's most-wanted man, escaped from a high-security prison in a laundry van in 2001.