Shocking moment armed gang in truck destroys prison gate and breaks out nine inmates including two leaders of a Mexican oil theft cartel

Pueblos Unidos Cartel leaders José Artemio Maldonado and Mariano Maldonado escaped with seven inmates from a prison in MexicoAlleged gang members led a convoy of six vehicles, including a truck that tore down a gate at the Center for Social Readaptation in Tula de Allende, HidalgoMexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador revealed Thursday morning that three prisoners had been recapturedThe Maldonado brothers, who command an oil theft gang, remain at large José Artemio Maldonado was arrested last Friday in State of Mexico on homicide and kidnapping charges 

A surveillance camera captured the daring moment a truck rammed through a prison gate before an armed group sprung the leaders of an oil-theft cartel and eight other inmates in the central Mexico state of Hidalgo on Wednesday.

The predawn attack helped break out Pueblos Unidos Cartel leader José Artemio Maldonado, who was arrested November 26 on homicide and kidnapping charges.

He was being held at the Center for Social Readaptation in the Hidalgo city of Tula de Allende ahead of his first court appearance Wednesday.

His brother, Mariano Maldonado, a leader within in the criminal organization, was also among the prisoners who escaped.

At least three of the convicts had been captured as of Thursday morning, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said, but the two brothers remained on the loose.

A still image from a security camera showed José Artemio Maldonado paying at a toll both on the Mexico-Queretaró Expressway. 



Pueblos Unidos Cartel leader José Artemio Maldonado Mejía escaped from a jail in Hidalgo, Mexico, on Wednesday in an attack launched by alleged members of the criminal organization that helped eight other prisoners flee, including his brother Mariano Maldonado

Pueblos Unidos Cartel leader José Artemio Maldonado Mejía escaped from a jail in Hidalgo, Mexico, on Wednesday in an attack launched by alleged members of the criminal organization that helped eight other prisoners flee, including his brother Mariano Maldonado

Surveillance camera captures the moment a truck barrels through a gate at the Center for Social Readaptation in the Hidalgo city of Tula de Allende before nine prisoners fled

Surveillance camera captures the moment a truck barrels through a gate at the Center for Social Readaptation in the Hidalgo city of Tula de Allende before nine prisoners fled

#ImagenNoticias obtuvo videos del comando que liberó a 9 reos del penal estatal de #Tula, #Hidalgo. https://t.co/LQibznZjND

Los detalles en #ImagenNoticias con @CiroGomezL por @ImagenTVMex pic.twitter.com/HI9me5CVrP

— Excélsior (@Excelsior) December 2, 2021

Pueblo Unidos Cartel henchmen set off two car bombs along a stretch of a road near the prison around 4am local time and also placed spike strips to delay the response by authorities before invading the jail.

Hidalgo State Attorney General Alejandro Habib Nicólas told Aristegui Noticias that the armed gang utilized military weapons to launch the attack.

A state police officer and a municipal cop – whose names have not been released – suffered gunshot wounds during the brazen breakout, said Hidalgo state public security chief Mauricio Delmar Saavedra.  

The truck that was used to tear down the prison gate was found abandoned on the outskirts of Tula de Allende. 


The use of car bombs by gangs in Mexico has been extremely rare, with one such attack in the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez in 2010 killing three people.

But gangs in Mexico frequently torch vehicles to distract police, and vehicles set alight can appear to explode once the flames reach their gas tanks.

‘Two burning vehicles were used as a distractor simultaneously, it was a very coordinated type of operation,’ Habib Nicólas said.

Tula is home to a large oil refinery and the area has been plagued by gangs of thieves who drill illegal taps into government-owned pipelines to extract gasoline and diesel.

José Artemio Maldonado was caught on camera paying at a toll booth on the Mexico-Queretaró Expressway after he escaped from prison Wednesday, just five days after he had been arrested

José Artemio Maldonado was caught on camera paying at a toll booth on the Mexico-Queretaró Expressway after he escaped from prison Wednesday, just five days after he had been arrested

Mariano Maldonado is one of the two leaders of the Pueblos Unidos Cartel who broke out of a prison in Mexico on Wednesday

Mariano Maldonado is one of the two leaders of the Pueblos Unidos Cartel who broke out of a prison in Mexico on Wednesday

Police inspect an abandoned truck that was modified into a ram and found on the outskirts of Tula

Police inspect an abandoned truck that was modified into a ram and found on the outskirts of Tula

Locals walk past a burned vehicle car outside the Tula General Hospital after members of the Pueblo Unidos Cartel broke their leader out of a prison Wednesday

Locals walk past a burned vehicle car outside the Tula General Hospital after members of the Pueblo Unidos Cartel broke their leader out of a prison Wednesday

The criminal organization caught the government’s attention in 2018 due to incidents related to oil theft, kidnappings and extortion throughout the states Michoacán, State of Mexico, Queretaró, and Hidalgo.

The organization was originally known as “Los Emes” or “The M’s” before it renamed itself.

In June the gang released several videos, announcing it was waging war on rival gangs that were stealing oil and killing innocent people in the Mezquital Valley, a region in the western part of the central Mexican state of Hidalgo that consists of the municipalities and towns of San Francisco, Santa Ana, La Curva, Anaya, La Loma, Tepetitlán, Sayula, Chalpantongo, Nopala, Taxco, Cuatenco, San Gabriel, Tezontepec, Ixmiquilpan, and Tlahuelilpan.

The criminal network reportedly has a presence in Mexicali, a city in Pacific northwest state of Baja California where its members prey on United States-bound migrants who are kidnapped and held for ransom.

Lucio Maldonado, who was in charge of the gang’s wing that abducted migrants, has been in prison since October 2015 when authorities recaptured him following the 2012 armed gang attack that helped him flee after a prison vehicle transporting him to a local medical facility was intercepted.

Mariano Maldonado had been in prison since 2018 after his arrest on kidnapping charges.

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