MEXICO CITY – The death toll in the brawl among inmates at a jail in the northwestern Mexican state of Durango rose to 20 on the weekend, officials said Sunday.
Though it was quelled by security forces, officials said, the battle between rival groups of inmates that erupted on Friday at Prison No. 2 in the Mexican municipality of Gomez Palacio also resulted in 25 prisoners being injured by gunfire and bladed weapons.
Nineteen prisoners were killed outright in the turf battle, but on Saturday, another prisoner being treated at a medical center succumbed to the gunshot wound to the head he had received, and on Sunday the Durango Public Security Secretariat announced the identities of the 20 fatalities in a communique.
“It was a clash between rival groups,” Jorge Torres, Durango’s public safety secretary, said. Television images showed columns of smoke and prisoners’ family members throwing rocks at agents sent to the area.
He said that this prison houses numerous racketeers from organized crime who fight each other to control it.
“What happens in the streets is repeated in the jails,” said the public safety secretary with reference to the turf wars among Mexican cartels for control of markets and drug routes to the United States.
According to the press, the battle broke out during visiting hours, lasted four hours and was answered with the deployment of municipal, state and federal police plus army soldiers.
Tanks and two trucks of police and soldiers entered the jail along with eight ambulances and were met with gunfire from some of the inmates, who also set fire to a storehouse. The security forces were eventually able to reassert full control of the prison.
The war among drug traffickers so far this year has taken 4,200 lives in the country and close to 15,000 in the last 3½ years.
The official said that the situation at Gomez Palacio Prison is relatively calm, but it’s still “a time bomb” if the detention center continues to house common criminals alongside those from organized crime.