Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Prison raid in Ciudad Juárez leaves 17 dead, 25 fugitives

The first day of 2023 opened with a brutal attack on a prison in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, which at the time of writing, left 17 people dead, 13 wounded and 25 escaped prisoners.

Reports indicate the raid began at 7 a.m. on Sunday, when gunmen in armored vehicles stormed Cereso No. 3 prison during visiting hours. Initial investigations suggest their goal was to free Ernesto Alfredo Piñon de la Cruz, alias “El Neto,” leader of local gang Los Mexicles.

“They surrounded the houses and were shooting in the air from the middle of the street, so that those who were waiting to visit would leave,” a local resident told El Diario newspaper.

Ten prison guards were killed in the gun battle, according to the most recent statement by the Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office. In addition, seven inmates were killed and 13 people injured. Authorities believe some of the guards were handcuffed by the gunmen,  and then shot.

Cereso Prison No. 3 in Ciudad Juárez during Sunday’s raid. (Twitter @FrankCongress)

Authorities have announced that 25 prisoners managed to escape, including “El Neto” and his lieutenant, “El Chillín.” Others took advantage of the chaos to break out. Fugitives violently hijacked at least six cars from drivers on the surrounding streets.

The raid appears to have been highly coordinated. Authorities reported two simultaneous attacks against nearby police patrols which they believe to have been planned as distractions.

Members of the army, state and municipal police regained control of the prison almost three hours after the riot started. Shortly afterwards, Chihuahua governor Maru Campos Galván traveled to Ciudad Juárez and convened an emergency security roundtable.

Governor of Chihuahua, Maru Campos Galván, at an emergency security roundtable convened on Jan. 1. (Maru Campos Galván Twitter)

“I have given instructions to prioritize safeguarding the security and integrity of Juárez civilians,” she announced on social media. “For this reason, a ground and air operation was quickly deployed, in coordination with the military and the National Guard.”

She went on to express solidarity with the families of the murdered guards, and to urge local people “not to allow these events to be politicized.”

Los Mexicles are one of the main criminal cells in Ciudad Juárez. They have been associated with several riots in the Cereso No. 3, including a previous escape attempt by “El Neto” in August 2022. The gang leader has allegedly coordinated numerous violent attacks in Ciudad Juárez, despite being jailed since 2009.

“[El Neto is] the toughest and most brutal narco of the Mexicles,” former Chihuahua governor Javier Corral Jurado said on Twitter. “He has been one of the greatest generators of violence in the city from prison, and now he returns to the street.” 

With reports from Animal Político, Latin US and Sin Embargo

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