A member of the Mexican army runs in front of Ciudad Juarez prison number 3 after an attack in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, January 1, 2023. (Photo by HERIKA MARTINEZ / AFP)
CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico (AFP) – Gunmen attacked a prison in the northern Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez on Sunday, killing 14 people and allowing 24 inmates to escape, Chihuahua state attorneys’ offices said.
An unknown number of gunmen aboard armored vehicles participated in the attack, and the dead included 10 prison guards and security agents, the bureau said in a statement.
About five hours after the dawn break-in began, security forces managed to bring the situation under control, which also erupted in fighting between inmates at the sprawling state penitentiary near Mexico’s border with the United States.
Just before the attack, gunmen fired on city police along a nearby boulevard, sparking a chase that ended with the impounding of a vehicle and four men, the statement added.
Attackers in a Hummer later fired at another group of security agents outside the prison, sources said.
Chaotic scenes ensued as the relatives of some prisoners waited outside the compound for the New Year’s visits.
Inside, some rioting inmates set fire to various objects and clashed with prison guards, local media reported.
Prosecutors said the outbreak of violence at the prison, where inmates from various criminal gangs and drug cartels are being held in separate cell blocks, also injured 13 people.
Four people were arrested, the prosecutor said, without specifying whether they were inmates or armed attackers.
Details of how the 24 inmates escaped or who they were were not immediately available.
– History of violent clashes –
Prosecutors in the city, which is across the border from El Paso, Texas, said they were investigating the motive for the attack.
Ciudad Juarez has been the scene of years of violent clashes between security forces and rival drug cartels Sinaloa and Juarez, which have left thousands dead over the past decade.
The prison itself has seen several outbreaks of fighting and rioting, including a bloody episode in March 2009 that left 20 people dead.
In August 2022, a clash between rival gangs killed three prisoners.
According to a February 2022 report by the State Human Rights Commission, more than 3,700 people are being held in the prison, exceeding the maximum capacity of 3,135.
In February 2016, Pope Francis celebrated a mass with 700 prisoners and their families in the courtyard of the state prison as part of his visit to Mexico.
Mexican prisons, particularly those run by the state, suffer from chronic overcrowding and violence, which has worsened in recent years due to conflicts between criminal groups.
© Agence France-Presse