At least seven people have reportedly been killed in a shootout in Mexico, as authorities are trying to track down dozens of escaped inmates following a violent and deadly uprising at a prison near the Texas border.
Mexican officials say 17 have been confirmed dead so far in the prison break Sunday in Ciudad Juarez, including 10 guards. They added that the attack appeared to be staged in order to free Ernesto Piñón de la Cruz, the leader of the Mexicles gang, which is linked to the Caborca Cartel.
As of Tuesday, the escapees have not been captured.
Unidentified gunman opened fire on Mexico state investigators pursuing the inmates – killing two of them in a shootout that ultimately left seven dead – but remains unclear if any of the inmates were among the fatalities, the BBC reports.
Security Secretary Rosa Icela Rodríguez said the prison was attacked by gunmen who arrived early Sunday in armored vehicles and fired on the entrance and inside dormitories.
Suspected members of the Mexicles gang were taking advantage of busier-than-normal visiting hours as locals were going to the prison to wish loved ones a happy new year, according to the BBC, which added that inmates inside set mattresses on fire to raise the level of confusion and chaos.
The 33-year-old “El Neto” has been incarcerated for 14 years on a kidnapping and murder conviction, while a previous attempt by his gang to free him during a prison transfer in 2010 failed, the BBC also reported.
When authorities went inside the prison Sunday, they found 10 “VIP” cells outfitted with televisions and other comforts. One even had a safe filled with cash. Also found in the prison was cocaine methamphetamine, heroin, fentanyl and marijuana.
Two other gunmen killed after attacking local police a short time before the prison break were likely a diversion, Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval said. They were not included in the 17 dead, which were made up of 10 guards and seven inmates.
The state prison also was the scene of a riot in August that spread to the streets of Ciudad Juarez, resulting in nearly a dozen people dead.
In that case, two inmates were killed inside the prison and then alleged gang members started shooting up the town, including killing four employees of a radio station who were doing a promotion at a restaurant.
Fox News’ Louis Casiano, Bradford Betz and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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