Eleven prisoners and six guards have been killed in armed clashes at a prison in northern Mexico that erupted when inmates attempted a prison break.

The shootout broke out on Tuesday as wardens were "thwarting the inmates' attempted prison break" in the city of Gomez Palacio, the public security office in Durango state said in a statement.

Wardens rang the alarm bells in the facility as the inmates shot at guard towers as they attempted to escape through a back wall and tunnel, and guards fired back to contain the revolt, according to the statement which cited by the El Universal and Milenio newspapers.

Troops eventually put a stop to the attempt and regained control of the facility.

Mass jailbreaks have become a recurrent problem in Mexico. In September, 131 prisoners escaped through the front door of a prison in Piedras Negras, a city on the US border.

In the last two years, 521 prisoners have escaped, while 352 homicides have been committed inside penitentiaries, according to the National Human Rights Commission.

According to government offices, illegal substances are found in prisons, including weapons and drugs.

It said 60 per cent of Mexico's prisons are controlled by organised crime groups.

Mexico has 419 prisons, 13 controlled by the federal government, and the rest managed by state and municipal authorities.

Source: Agencies