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Prison Riot Sparked by Drug Gangs Kills 31 in Northern Mexico

Jan. 5 (Bloomberg) -- A prison riot in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas left 31 inmates dead and injured 13, according to a statement from local authorities.

The riot broke out yesterday in a prison in the city of Altamira after members of drug gangs began fighting over territory within the compound, said a security official who asked not to be cited because he wasn’t authorized to speak on the record.

Police and army troops were sent in and restored order in the prison, the person said. The fight was between members of the Zetas criminal gang and the Gulf Cartel, the person said.

Thirteen people were arrested after the incident, according to the Tamaulipas government statement.

Tamaulipas, just south of Texas on Mexico’s Gulf coast, is the home to the Zetas Cartel, which has been blamed for a series of violent incidents including a casino fire in Monterrey last August that left 52 dead. The Gulf Cartel is also based in Tamaulipas.

The Zetas were formed by members of Mexico’s special forces as the enforcement arm of the Gulf Cartel, according to information on the website of the U.S. State Department.

About 43,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon began his offensive against drug trafficking organizations in 2006, according to an Oct. 4 Drug Enforcement Administration report.

The Zetas are viewed as the “most brutal” of Mexico’s drug gangs, according to a U.S. Senate report released in May 2011. The Zetas and the Gulf Cartel are now fighting each other, the report said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nacha Cattan in Mexico City at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at

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