The director of a Mexican prison where 44 inmates were killed in an organized gang attack has been fired along with 18 of his guards.

Prison officials are suspected of colluding with members of the Zetas drug cartel in a plot to orchestrate an elaborate escape and kill their rivals in one of the worst episodes of prison violence in Mexican history.

In what first appeared to be prison brawl between criminal gangs, the Zetas stabbed, cut the throats and bludgeoned to death at least 44 inmates affiliated with the rival Gulf Cartel on Sunday, said Governor Rodrigo Medina of Nuevo Leon state.

During the violence, 30 Zetas members escaped the prison on the outskirts of industrial hub of Monterrey with the help of corrupt prison guards, he said.

Most of the escapees were charged with federal crimes, like drug trafficking.

The escaped prisoners belonged to the Zetas cartel and those who lost their lives, the assassinated prisoners, to the Gulf cartel, Medina told a news conference, according to Reuters.

There is no doubt that without the help of these prison guards, this escape would have been very difficult, he said. The treachery, corruption and complicity of some can spoil the work and service of good policemen, soldiers and marines who risk their lives every day for our security.

According to officials, the riot began at 2 a.m.  Sunday with Zetas attacking their Gulf cartel rivals in a neighboring cell block.

The victims were chased into the prison yard where they were pelted with rocks and beaten with clubs.

Nuevo Leon state government has offered an $800,000 reward for information leading to the capture of escaped prisoners.

The war between the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas - their former enforcers -- has been raging for two years over control of the northeastern and Gulf Coast cities.

Reuters contributed to this report