Seven, including six police officers, killed in prison riot in Mexico

Relatives of prisoners wait for information outside La Toma prison in Veracruz State, Mexico, where a riot broke out.
Relatives of prisoners wait for information outside La Toma prison in Veracruz State, Mexico, where a riot broke out.PHOTO: AFP

COATZACOALCOS, MEXICO (AFP) - Seven people, including at least six police officers, were killed on Sunday (April 1) in a prison riot in eastern Mexico, authorities said, the latest outburst of deadly violence in the country's jails.

Police were trying to transport a group of "highly dangerous" prisoners from the La Toma prison in Veracruz state when inmates attacked the six officers, locked them in an enclosed space and set it on fire, the state government said.

"The inmates started a fire, causing six police officers to die of smoke inhalation," it said in a statement.

A seventh person, who has yet to be identified, was also killed, it said.

Fifteen police officers were hospitalised with injuries. Seven inmates were also wounded in the riot, two of them seriously.

Army troops were sent into the prison to help state police bring the situation under control, the statement said.

Anxious prisoners' relatives gathered outside the prison demanding news of their loved ones, according to an AFP photographer at the scene.

Police in riot gear had set up a tight security cordon around the complex.

The facility is located in the municipality of Amatlan de los Reyes, about 140km south of the Veracruz state capital, Xalapa.

Mexico's prisons are frequently hit by riots, killings and jailbreaks.

Criminal gangs often hold de facto control inside, operating with the complicity of corrupt officials.

The office of Mexico's human rights ombudsman acknowledged the problem in its 2017 report on the country's prisons. It also sounded the alarm over poor conditions, overcrowding and violence.

Deadly prison riots are a major problem across much of Latin America.

Last Wednesday, 68 people died in a fire during a riot in a Venezuelan detention facility. Two of the dead were women visitors.

Veracruz is one of the states hardest hit by a wave of violence that has swept Mexico, driven largely by drug trafficking.

The state is the scene of turf wars between the powerful drug cartels Jalisco New Generation, the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel.