A shootout during a failed prison break at a penitentiary in northern Mexico late Tuesday has left at least 13 inmates and nine guards dead, authorities said.

The inmates tried to climb the prison's back walls and when guards fired into the air to stop them the firefight ensued, according to a statement by the Public Safety Department. It happened at the Cereso No. 2 facility in the city of Gomez Palacio, state of Durango.

The state's Secretary of Public Security, Jesús Holguín said in a radio interview Wednesday that his office is investigating the use of weapons by inmates in the prison.

He explained that the mutiny alarm went off around 5 pm Tuesday. The inmates started firing guns into the watchtowers and the guards, he said, which was followed by a escape attempt.

According to reports in the Mexican media, the conflict stemmed from a surprise transfer of 137 inmates to different prisons, which happened Sunday night and early Monday morning without warning by the federal authorities.

The outraged relatives said the transfer was arbitrary and unjustified, and requested the intervention of the National Human Rights Commission.

Mass prison breaks are not uncommon in México. In September, more than 120 inmates escaped from a prison in the border city of Piedras Negras, across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas.

Authorities attribute the jailbreaks to drug gangs trying to swell their ranks as they fight bloody turf battles throughout Mexico, including Durango, where the Sinaloa and Zetas drug cartel are fighting for control.

With reporting by The Associated Press.

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