31 killed in Mexican prison fight between rival drug gangs

A prison fight in Mexico between inmates armed with makeshift knives, clubs and even stones has reportedly left 31 dead.

Another 13 prisoners were wounded in the brawl in the penitentiary in the Gulf Coast city of Altamira, the Associated Press reported, citing the Public Safety Department of the drug cartel-plagued state of Tamaulipas.

Rival drug gangs had been fighting over territory within the prison compound, and a group of inmates burst into a section of the prison they were banned from, attacking the prisoners housed there, the department said in a statement.

Bloomberg cited an unnamed security official as saying the fight was between members of the rival Gulf and Zetas drug cartels. Tamaulipas state, just south of Texas, has been the scene of bloody turf battles between the two former allies.

Mexican soldiers and marines were sent in to retake control of the prison, the official reportedly said.

The AP cites the Mexican authorities as saying that the port of Altamira is used to bring in cocaine and chemicals used to make methamphetamine.

The Zetas, blamed for numerous violent incidents, including a casino fire in Monterrey last August that left 52 dead, and the Gulf Cartel are based in Tamaulipas.

According to the AP:

In 2010, four inmates at the Altamira prison were killed when an armed gang stormed the penitentiary as 11 inmates were being transferred. Authorities did not confirm reports that the raid was an attempt to free prisoners. Gang raids on prisons are common in Tamaulipas.