February 19, 2012 at 9:21 PM CST - Updated June 26 at 3:15 PM
MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) — A fight among inmates led to a prison riot in northern Mexico that killed 44 people Sunday, a security official said.
Nuevo Leon state public security spokesman Jorge Domene Zambrano said the riot broke out at about 2 a.m. in a high-security section of a prison in the city of Apodaca outside the northern industrial city of Monterrey.
Several inmates attacked others, and the fighting then spread and blew up into a riot, Domene said. Forty-four people died before authorities regained control of the prison a couple of hours later, he said.
Families of the prisoners gathered outside the prison pushing at the fences and shouting at police to demand word of the victims.
Deadly fights happen periodically in Mexico's prisons as gangs and drug cartels stage jail breaks and battle for control of penitentiaries, often with the involvement of officials.
Some 31 prisoners died in January during a prison riot in the Gulf coast city of Altamira in Tamaulipas state, which borders Texas. Another fight in a prison in the Tamaulipas border city of Matamoros in October killed 20 inmates and injured 12.
In July, a riot at a prison in the border city of Juarez killed 17 inmates. Mexican authorities detained the director and four guards over that clash. Surveillance video showed two inmates opening doors to let armed prisoners into a room where the slain victims were reportedly holding a party.
Twenty-three people were killed in a prison riot in Durango city in 2010, and a 2009 riot in Gomez Palacio, another city in the northern Mexican state of Durango, killed 19 people.