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Page last updated at 09:27 GMT, Friday, 22 May 2009 10:27 UK

Guards let Mexico inmates escape

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Prisoners walk out of Mexico jail

Guards stood by as more than 50 prisoners, including some listed as dangerous by Interpol, walked out of a Mexican jail, officials say.

It was initially thought that guards at the prison in the northern state of Zacatecas had been overpowered.

The jail break, which occurred on Saturday, was captured on closed circuit television recordings.

Authorities have launched a hunt for the 53 escapees. Some have been linked to Mexico's notorious drug cartels.

Fifty-one people suspected of involvement in the prison break have been ordered to be jailed, said Ricardo Najera, a spokesman for the attorney general.

These include the prison director and all 44 guards on duty during the break, he said.

He also said that the prisoners stole 23 guns from the jail before escaping.

Corruption

Interpol issued a security alert for 11 of the prisoners, whom it described as "a risk to the safety and security of citizens around the world".

Soldiers patrolling in Zacatecas, 17 May 2009
Soldiers have been deployed to look for the escapees

Footage of the prison break released by the attorney general's office shows guards stepping aside as prisoners let themselves out of cells.

The inmates then cover one of the security cameras with a blanket.

Another camera outside the building filmed guards opening the prison gates to gunmen who had arrived in what appeared to be police cars with flashing lights.

Once inside, the gunmen, disguised as security officers, escort the prisoners out.

Only once the convoy has driven off do the guards run out with their guns drawn, in what seemed an attempt to cover up their role in the escape.

Following the escape security forces launched a hunt, setting up roadblocks near the prison in Zacatecas and neighbouring states.

President Felipe Calderon has declared war on the illegal narcotic organisation in Mexico, deploying 40,000 troops to fight the cartels.

In some regions instances of beheadings and attacks on police have become commonplace, with the deaths of 6,000 people last year alone linked to illegal narcotics.

But progress in the war against the cartels has been limited by institutional corruption, correspondents say.



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