According to the Chihuahua state prosecutor’s office, attackers descended on the Cereso state prison in armed vehicles around 7 a.m. and opened fire on guards, Fox News reported. The prosecutor’s office said that 10 guards were killed along with three inmates before Mexican soldiers and police regained control of the prison around noon. At least 24 prisoners escaped during the incident.
Five men were arrested, and three suspected attackers were killed after a police chase and shootout, according to Juarez Mayor Cruz Perez Cuellar. Some inmates reportedly stole vehicles in the city after busting out of prison.
The Cereso state prison is considered one of Latin America’s most dangerous institutions. Government officials say it is controlled by an organized crime group that has ordered attacks in Juarez from inside the facility. Sunday’s assault was pinned on rival gangs, a common theme in the Mexican city that experiences constant violence as drug cartels fight for control of the critical border town just south of El Paso, Texas.
Mexican authorities have been placed on “maximum alert” as they continue investigating who was behind the violent prison break.
The New Year’s Day prison attack follows a prison riot in Ciudad Juarez last year. Eleven people died in August when two drug cartels started a prison riot that sparked shootings and unrest in the city, eventually spreading to other communities. The Los Mexicles and Sinaloa cartels were the two groups involved. Both are linked to the infamous drug lord “El Chapo” Guzman.
Leif Le Mahieu contributed to this report.