- The Washington Times - Monday, April 5, 2010

NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico | Thirteen inmates escaped when armed men stormed a prison in the northern Mexican border city of Reynosa, an official with the federal attorney general’s office said Sunday.

It was the second mass jailbreak in less than two weeks in Tamaulipas state, which has been wracked by a new wave of clashes between feuding drug gangs.

Thirty-one guards have been detained for questioning in the Friday prison break in Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas, according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity under the agency’s policy.

Three prisoners were fatally shot in the raid, but it was not clear who killed them.

The Tamaulipas government had reported the raid and the death of the three prisoners late Friday, but did not mention the escapes. Its three-sentence statement said the armed men arrived in 10 cars and exchanged gunfire with guards.

Nobody could be reached for comment Sunday at the offices of the Tamaulipas governor, the state prosecutors’ office or public safety department.

Eleven of the inmates who escaped were in prison on federal crime charges, even though they were being held at the state institution, according to the official at the attorney general’s office.

The official had no other information on the offenses, the slain inmates or the armed men.

Last week, 40 inmates escaped from a prison in Matamoros, a Tamaulipas city across the border from Brownsville, Texas. The prison director was under investigation, and 50 employees were held for questioning.

Such escapes are common from Mexican state prisons, where guards are often either bought off or too frightened to resist heavily armed gangs who arrive to free allies or kill rivals.

Mexico’s drug gang wars have heated up in Tamaulipas and neighboring Nuevo Leon state. Authorities have blamed the bloodshed on a split between the Gulf cartel and its former ally, the Zetas.

On Saturday night, three people were killed in a shootout between soldiers and armed men on a highway near Ciudad Mier, a town near the border city of Nuevo Laredo, the Tamaulipas government said on its Web site.

One of those killed was a bystander, the statement said. The other two were gunmen.

Military patrols and checkpoints have repeatedly come under fire in Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon, where armed gangs have raised roadblocks in the middle of cities and around army bases in a bold new tactic to impede security operations.

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