(revises number of escapees)


The number of inmates who escaped from a coed prison in the northern border city of Piedras Negras was 129 and not 132, as originally reported, Mexican authorities said Tuesday.

Three women and two men thought to have been among the escapees were later found in the prison's carpentry shop, where they took refuge after being threatened by the inmates who led the breakout, Coahuila state Public Safety Secretary Jorge Luis Moran said.

Authorities suspect the mass escape was engineered by the powerful, ruthless Los Zetas drug cartel, Moran said.

Coahuila officials have asked the United States for assistance in finding and capturing the inmates, who broke out of the prison on Monday, he said.

The prison warden, 27 guards, a shift supervisor and a security chief were detained after the escape, Coahuila government spokesman Sergio Sisbeles told Efe.

Of the prisoners who escaped, 86 were being held on federal charges, Sisbeles said.

The state government is offering a reward of 200,000 pesos ($15,600) for information leading to the capture of each of the prisoners, the spokesman said.

State officials declared an emergency at 3:25 p.m. on Monday, leading to a huge deployment of soldiers and police, the Zocalo newspaper said.

The inmates dug a tunnel to the prison's north wall, made their way into the yard and cut through a fence, investigators said.

The tunnel, which is about 30 meters (nearly 100 feet) long and about three meters (nearly 10 feet) underground, allowed the men to get under the perimeter wall.

Army troops and federal, state and municipal police officers searched for the inmates in nearby neighborhoods and roads.

Authorities also stepped up security on the international bridge that links Piedras Negras, a city of some 150,000 people, to Eagle Pass, Texas.

The escape occurred after morning roll call and prison officials discovered the tunnel in the afternoon, Moran said.

Monday's prison break was the biggest in Mexico since Dec. 17, 2010, when 141 inmates escaped from a penitentiary in Nuevo Laredo, a border city in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas. EFE