22 dead in prison break attempt in northern Mexico

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DURANGO, Mexico — Mexican authorities on Wednesday said 22 people died in an attempted jail break in the northern state of Durango that sparked a bloody shootout between guards and inmates, Reuters is reporting.

Durango state Public Safety Department said guards foiled ‘‘a massive prison escape’’ at the Cereso No. 2 facility in the city of Gomez Palacio. Nine guards and 13 prisoners were killed.

The inmates tried to climb the prison’s back walls and when guards fired into the air to stop them the firefight ensued, a statement from the department said.

‘‘The inmates started firing guns into the watchtowers and into custodian areas,’’ it said.

Soldiers surrounded the prison and helped stop the prison break, it said, adding that the prison was back under the control of authorities.

Mass prison breaks are not uncommon in Mexico. In September, more than 120 inmates escaped from a prison in the border city of Piedras Negras, across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas.

Authorities attribute the jailbreaks to drug gangs trying to swell their ranks as they fight bloody turf battles throughout Mexico, including Durango, where the Sinaloa and Zetas drug cartel are fighting for control.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.