Several guards have confessed to helping members of a Mexican drug gang escape from a prison before other members massacred dozens of rival inmates, a state official said.
Jorge Domene Zambrano, a spokesman for Nuevo Leon state public security, said on Monday that nine of the guards confessed to aiding the escape. He said it appeared the breakout happened before the deadly fight.
Rodrigo Medina, governor of Nuevo Leon, has released names and pictures of the fugitives, and posted rewards of up to $775,000 for information leading to their capture.
Top officials and as many as 18 guards at the Apodaca prison, an overcrowded facility 30km north of Monterrey, the state capital of Nuevo Leon in northern Mexico, had been detained.
They are suspected of helping 30 members of the Zetas gang escape during the confusion of a riot early Sunday in which 44 members of the rival Gulf cartel were bludgeoned and knifed to death.
The prison housed some 3,000 inmates, twice its intended capacity.
Al Jazeera’s Adam Raney, reporting from the Mexican capital, said the authorities were still giving mixed messages as to what the incident really was: a riot, a prison break, or a violent massacre covering up the prison break.
“The Zetas members who did not escape went on to cover up cameras and methodically massacre 44 members of the gulf cartels, stabbing them to death, mutilating their bodies,” he said.”
The two crime syndicates have been locked in a bloody turf battle since their alliance broke down in 2010.
The massacre in the Nuevo Leon prison was one of the worst prison killings in Mexico in at least a quarter-century and exposed another weak institution that President Felipe Calderon is relying on to fight his drug war.
Mexico has only six federal prisons, housing many of its dangerous cartel suspects and inmates in ill-prepared, overcrowded facilities.
The prisons have often been the scene of brutal violence.
In early January, 31 inmates were killed and 13 wounded in a brawl in the Altamira prison in the northern state of Tamaulipas.