Mexico gunmen free prisoner as he undergoes surgery

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MEXICO CITY, Sep 28 (Reuters) Dozens of men with assault rifles stormed a hospital in western Mexico and pulled a prisoner convicted of murder off the operating table to spirit him from custody, authorities said today.

Ruben Beltran was being guarded by police during an operation on a wound on the side of his body which he sustained in jail in the city of Culiacan. The city is the capital of Sinaloa state, home to the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel.

''The prisoner was in the operating room when an armed group took everyone by surprise and disarmed the guards,'' said Sinaloa state health official Arturo Borboa. ''It seems they were between 30 and 40 people.'' The gunmen overwhelmed two prison guards and seven state police officers, one of whom was wounded. All of the gunmen escaped with the prisoner.

The Sinaloa cartel is run by Mexico's most wanted man, Joaquin ''Shorty'' Guzman, who is waging war against other traffickers to try to dominate Mexico's drug trade.

Some 2,000 people have died this year in the war.

Reuters MP VP0332

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