Seven Killed As Hunt For Mexico Jail Break Escapees Turns Deadly

MEXICO2

LAGOS JANUARY 3RD (NEWSRANGERS)- At least seven people have been killed in a shoot-out in Mexico as officials searched for 30 inmates who staged a bloody prison break on Sunday.

Gunmen opened fire on state investigators who were hunting the escapees, killing at least two of them.

Five gunmen also died in the shoot-out, but it is not yet clear if any of the escapees were among those killed.

A gang called Los Mexicles, which has links to the Sinaloa cartel, is thought to be behind the violence.

Sunday’s prison break in Ciudad Juárez was one of the deadliest in recent times, leaving 10 guards and seven inmates dead.

Suspected members of Los Mexicles took advantage of the busy visiting hours on Sunday morning as relatives flocked to the jail to wish their loved ones a happy new year.

They arrived in several armoured cars and opened fire on the guards at the entrance, according to local media.

At the same time, inmates set mattresses alight inside their cells to create confusion and distract the guards.

At first, officials said two dozen inmates had escaped, but the head of the state prison system has since announced that the number was “at least 30”.

Among those who escaped is the leader of Los Mexicles, Ernesto Piñón de la Cruz, also known as El Neto.

El Neto, 33, has been in prison for 14 years serving a sentence for kidnapping and murder. An attempt by his gang to free him during a prison transfer in 2010 failed and he was injured.

He appears to have wielded enormous power from behind bars, where he enjoyed a more luxurious life than less well-connected prisoners.

Mexico’s defence minister said 10 “VIP cells” had been “discovered” during a search of the jail.

El Neto’s cell boasted a jacuzzi, a plasma TV and a safe containing 1.7m pesos ($87,000; £73,000).

Police also found 16kg of marijuana, 4kg of crystal meth and 1.5kg of heroin, as well as several weapons.

Federal officials say the state of Chihuahua, in which the prison is located, is to blame for the lack of oversight, while Chihuahua officials say their requests to have El Neto moved to a federal institution with higher levels of security had been turned down.

Residents of Ciudad Juárez told local media they were terrified after the breakout, as El Neto is believed to have been behind a wave of killings in August 2022 known as “Black Thursday”, in which 10 people without any links to criminal gangs were killed across the city.

Police are carrying out checks at nearby airports and on main highways to try and prevent him and his fellow escapees from leaving the state.

BBC NEWS

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