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Prison Riot, Fire Leaves Over 50 Dead in Northern Mexico

Image: Inmates' relatives hang on to the fence surrounding the Topo Chico prison in Monterrey
Inmates' relatives hang on to the fence surrounding the Topo Chico prison in Monterrey, Mexico, February 11, 2016. DANIEL BECERRIL / Reuters

MONTERREY, Mexico -- Fifty-two inmates were killed and 12 injured in a prison fire and a brutal fight between two rival factions in Nuevo Leon, Mexico on Thursday, the state governor said.

Rescue workers could be seen bringing injured inmates from the Topo Chico prison in Monterrey, at least some with burns. The riot broke out just six days before Pope Francis is scheduled to visit another Mexican prison, in the border city of Ciudad Juarez in Chihuahua state.

Nuevo León state Gov. Jaime Rodriguez said the fight involved two factions led by a member of the Zetas drug cartel, Juan Pedro Zaldivar Farias, also known as "Z-27," and Jorge Ivan Hernandez Cantu, identified by Mexican media as a Gulf cartel figure.

Images broadcast by Milenio Television showed flames leaping from the prison, with a crowd of people bundled against the cold gathered outside the prison. Some shook and kicked at the prison gates, demanding to be allowed in.

Dozens dead in Mexico prison riot, local media and staff say
Relatives of prisoners demand information about the fire and riot, outside the prison of Topo Chico, in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, 11 February 2016. Scores of people died in a prison fire and riot. The riot reportedly was triggered by an attempted prison break by inmates belonging to the Los Zetas drug cartel, as one group of prisoners set a fire to distract the guards while other inmates tried to flee. MIGUEL SIERRA / EPA

The fire appeared to have been extinguished shortly after sunrise.

Witnesses said the fire broke out at about 12:30 a.m. CST amid shouts and sounds of explosions. A thick cloud of smoke rose, apparently from inmates burning mattresses.

Mexico's official National Human Rights Commission reported in 2013 that the country's prison system is plagued by violence and cases of inmate control, symptoms of corruption and lack of resources.

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