44 die in fight at Mexican prison (Lead)February 20th, 2012 - 12:26 pm ICT by IANS
Monterrey (Mexico), Feb 20 (IANS/EFE) At least 44 inmates died in a fight Sunday at the prison in Apodaca, a city in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, officials said.
Warden Gilberto Cecena said initially that 40 prisoners died, but later the toll was raised to 44 as authorities searched through the facility. All of the deaths occurred in cell block D.
Investigators are trying to determine what started the fight, the warden said, adding that apparently there were no injured survivors of the fight.
This is the prison fight with the largest toll in Mexico in the past five years.
About 400 relatives of inmates gathered outside the prison, with some screaming for information about their loved ones.
The highway to the prison in Apodaca, located about 22 km from Monterrey, has been closed.
The fight may have involved members of the rival Los Zetas and Gulf drug cartels.
The cause of the fight, which started in the early morning hours, has not been determined and the dead inmates have not been identified, Domene said, adding that it was not yet known whether any prison staff were among the dead.
The fight started around 2 a.m. in the prison in Apodaca, a suburb of Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo Leon, Domene said.
Gunfire was heard during the fight, but officials have not determined whether it came from guards or inmates.
Federal and state security forces regained control of the prison Sunday morning and the Nuevo Leon state government set up an area to assist inmates’ relatives, who have gathered around the prison and are seeking information about loved ones.
The medium-security prison in Apodaca houses about 3,000 inmates, or about 30 percent more prisoners than it was designed to hold, as is the case in most prisons in Mexico.
A fight last month at a prison in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas left 31 inmates dead.
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Tags: dead inmates, drug cartels, gunfire, investigators, los zetas, medium security, mexican prison, monterrey mexico, northeastern state, nuevo leon state, prison staff, prisoners, prisons, relatives, security prison, state government, state security forces, suburb, sunday morning, survivors