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Riot In Mexican Prison Kills At Least 52, Officials Say

Riot police were deployed Wednesday night outside Topo Chico prison in Monterrey, Mexico, where at least 52 people died in rioting and a fire.
Francisco Cobos
AFP/Getty Images
Riot police were deployed Wednesday night outside Topo Chico prison in Monterrey, Mexico, where at least 52 people died in rioting and a fire.

A fire and a riot broke out in a prison in the city of Monterrey in northern Mexico on Wednesday night, killing at least 52 people and putting 12 in the hospital, says Jaime Rodriguez Calderón, the governor of Nuevo León state.

The riot at the Topo Chico prison in Monterrey began with a dispute between two groups around 11:30 p.m. local time, Rodriguez said at a Thursday morning news conference. The prison was brought back under control at 1:30 a.m., Nuevo León state officials said earlier today.

Officials say no inmates escaped from the prison during the unrest no women or children were harmed in the rioting.

The state government also says that it will pay for medical and funeral expenses related to "this lamentable fact."

From the early hours this morning, a large crowd of relatives and others who have loved ones inside the Topo Chico prison gathered at its gates, seeking information about the casualties and deaths that were being reported in local media. They were also alarmed by smoke billowing from inside the prison's walls — and the ambulances and riot police that arrived on the scene.

Rodriguez said he won't release the names of those killed, pending notification of their families.

A video of the rioting, filmed from a nearby building and published on the El Norte website, shows people fighting in a floodlit open area inside the prison, as yelling and loud noises — possibly gunfire — are heard. Some of the footage shows what appears to be a figure on the ground being beaten.

According to a fact sheet published by the Nuevo León government, the rioting grew out of a dispute between gangs led by Jorge Cantu Ivan Hernandez, nicknamed "El Credo," and Juan Pedro Saldivar Farias, who is known as "Z-27" and is a member of the Zetas drug cartel. According to La Tarde and other news outlets, Hernandez is a member of the Gulf cartel.

From The Associated Press:

"The Zetas once nearly controlled the area around Monterrey and Zaldivar Farias was a suspect in the 2010 shooting death of American David Hartley on Texas' Falcon Lake. Hartley was reportedly shot while touring the lake with his wife on Jet Skis."

During the fighting, inmates set fire to an area where food is kept, the government said.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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