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February 20, 2012 12:00:00 AM
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At least 38 inmates have been killed in a riot at a prison near the northern Mexican city of Monterrey, officials said Sunday.

The clashes broke out overnight between rival gangs at Apodoca prison, some 30 kilometers (18 miles) from Monterrey.

Families were gathering outside the institution, awaiting news of their loved ones in a desperate scene that saw some women pass out after having waited outside the prison gates since early morning.

"So far we have counted 38 dead," Jorge Domene, a spokesman for the state corrections' system, told AFP, adding that the situation inside the prison was now calm and that forensic teams were working to identify the bodies.

He said the unrest broke out early Sunday in two outpatient wings of the prison that had been holding 300 inmates. The complex overall holds some 3,000 inmates, he added.

Riots are common in Mexico's notoriously overcrowded prisons. It was the second deadly such brawl in recent months near Monterrey after seven inmates died and 12 were injured in a clash in October at Cadereyta prison.

The toll was approaching the total deaths in Monterrey's three main prisons last year, with records showing 50 prisoner deaths from executions, brawls, and suspected suicides.

Monterrey, an industrial hub and Mexico's third largest city, has seen an upsurge in violence in recent months blamed on fighting between the brutal Zetas drug gang and their former employers, the Gulf cartel. Members of both groups are in Apodoca prison.

The deadly riots come just days after a horrific blaze at a Honduran prison left 359 inmates dead and shone a spotlight on Latin America's overcrowded penitentiaries.


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