VERACRUZ, Mexico (AP) — Six police officers died Sunday from smoke inhalation after prisoners started a fire while resisting an effort to transfer dangerous inmates out of a prison in Mexico’s Gulf coast state of Veracruz, authorities said.
Veracruz Gov. Miguel Angel Yunes said a seventh person died but it was unclear if he was an inmate or prison guard.
Yunes said four “highly dangerous” inmates had been helping run criminal networks in the area around the La Toma prison in the town of Amatlan de los Reyes, so officials had decided to transfer them to a maximum-security federal prison.
Yunes did not name the criminal gang involved, but the area was long dominated by Zetas cartel.
When local police, in support of state police, went into the prison to get the four inmates for transfer, they were apparently ambushed by prisoners, who blocked their escape and lit a fire that suffocated six officers, the governor said.
“The six police officers were attacked and were enclosed in an area with no exit. The inmates started a fire, and with the smoke, they caused the asphyxiation and death of the six police officers,” Yunes said.
The seventh dead man was not wearing a uniform, and could have been an inmate or guard, Yunes said. His body was being examined.
Seven inmates were injured, two seriously, and 15 police officers were hospitalized, one with serious injuries, authorities said.
Mexico’s largely antiquated, over-crowded and poorly guarded prisons have been the scenes of frequent riots and uprisings. In October, 16 inmates died during a prison riot in the northern Mexican border state of Nuevo Leon. In February 2016, at another lockup in Nuevo Leon, 49 prisoners died when two factions of the Zetas cartel clashed.
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