Prisoners in 'escape of the century' left by the front door

Arrest warrant issued for officials at Mexican jail after true story emerges of how 131 inmates fled

When 131 inmates fled from a Mexican prison in Coahuila, near the Texas border, earlier this week it was described as the "escape of the century". News reports said the prisoners made their way out through a tunnel before overpowering three guards and escaping, one by one, through a hole cut in the compound's wire fence.

But it has now emerged that the inmates actually left through the front door, with the help of prison guards.

Jorge Luis Morán, Coahuila's public safety secretary, told local media: "The statements from those we've captured confirm that they left through the door. There was total complicity, collusion and betrayal from the officers charged to prevent them from escaping."

A judge has ordered the detention of all 16 prison officials working that day, including its director, José Miguel Pérez Reséndiz. The escape is believed to have taken place at 10am, yet Mr Reséndiz did not report it until 3.30pm local time.

Monday's jailbreak prompted a national manhunt, but so far only three of the escapees have been caught.

It is believed that a handful of the inmates may actually have left through the tunnel, which is thought to have been used predominantly to traffic drugs over recent months. The Mexican authorities have also said inmates may have escaped over several days, which will further complicate the search for the remaining fugitives.

The recaptured inmates have claimed that only some of those who escaped had in fact planned to. Some were forced to leave, while others were opportunistic. In total, 20 per cent of the prison's population managed to escape.

Officials confirmed that two of the recaptured convicts were members of the powerful Zetas drugs cartel, which has a strong presence in Coahuila.

The Director of Public Prosecutors, Homero Ramos, said the two were caught in possession of vehicles, weapons and more than 8,000 rounds of ammunition. The gang, whose dominance in the region is being threatened, is widely believed to be behind the escape.

The fallibility of the system was laid bare when Mr Ramos was forced to confirm that, despite housing high-risk inmates, the prison did not have any security cameras.

Mexico's president, Felipe Calderón, took to Twitter to describe the jailbreak as "deplorable" and said "the vulnerability of the state institutions of justice must be corrected".

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