September 19, 2012 in Nation/World

Massive prison break executed in Mexico

Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Rapid response Coahuila state police stand at a checkpoint in the city of Piedras Negras, Mexico.
(Full-size photo)

PIEDRAS NEGRAS, Mexico – Officials said Tuesday they suspect the brutal Zetas drug cartel orchestrated the mass tunnel escape of more than 130 inmates at a northern Mexico border prison, possibly to replenish its ranks after suffering blows from a rival gang.

Jorge Luis Moran, public safety secretary of the northern border state of Coahuila, told the Associated Press that inmates inside the prison reported that those who plotted the escape were Zetas members and that some prisoners not in the gang were forced to go along.

“Clearly, the Zetas are behind this escape,” Moran said.

Police are also investigating whether the prison break might be linked to seizures of empty passenger buses in the region that could have been used to pick up the escapees and an attack on police officers deployed to the prison Monday, he said. Four alleged criminals were killed in that shootout.

State officials said Monday night that 132 inmates had escaped through a tunnel from the prison in Piedras Negras, a city across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas. On Tuesday, Moran revised the total to 131.

Late Tuesday, Moran announced two of the inmates were captured after a shooting with state police. They were armed in an SUV driving about 40 miles away from the prison, Moran told the Milenio TV station.

The escape tunnel was 21 feet long and 4 feet in diameter, and after passing through it, the prisoners cut their way through a chain link barrier, authorities said.

Federal police units and Mexican troops, including 70 members of an elite military special forces unit, were searching Tuesday throughout the state of Coahuila for inmates who fled the prison.

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