Gun­men raid party in Mex­ico, leav­ing 17 dead and 18 in­jured

Austin American-Statesman - - MONDAYBRIEFING - By Tracy Wilkin­son

MEX­ICO CITY — The an­nounce­ment went out on Face­book, an open in­vi­ta­tion sum­mon­ing rev­el­ers to a birth­day party at the Italia Inn in the north­ern Mex­ico city of Torreon.

But early Sun­day, as mu­si­cians ser­e­naded amid food, drink and danc­ing, gun­men burst into the party, blocked the ex­its and, say­ing not a word, opened fire, killing 17 men and women and in­jur­ing 18.

It was one of the high­est sin­gle-in­ci­dent death tolls since the be­gin­ning of Mex­ico’s rag­ing drug war, which has claimed nearly 25,000 lives from the time that Pres­i­dent Felipe Calderón launched a mil­i­tary-led of­fen­sive against pow­er­ful nar­cotics car­tels in De­cem­ber 2006.

The dead iden­ti­fied by Sun­day af­ter­noon were in their 20s and 30s, some re­lated to one an­other, ac­cord­ing to the pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice for the state of Coahuila, where Torreon is lo­cated. Coahuila bor­ders Texas and though it is plagued with the same vi­o­lence ter­ror­iz­ing other border states, it has re­ceived less pub­lic­ity.

Au­thor­i­ties con­firmed the num­ber of dead and said some of the in­jured were in crit­i­cal con­di­tion.

Pic­tures from the scene showed top­pled white plas­tic chairs, scat­tered mu­si­cal in­stru­ments and cups, plates and shoes strewn on a blood-splattered floor along­side a tented pool. Empty beer bot­tles were lined up on table­tops, bul­let holes punc­tured the walls.

“The party was on­go­ing … when gun­men ar­rived in sev­eral ve­hi­cles, dis­em­barked and, with­out ut­ter­ing a word to those in at­ten­dance, opened fire,” Jesús Tor­res, state at­tor­ney gen­eral, said in a state­ment. The as­sailants fled.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors re­cov­ered 122 spent shells from high-ve­loc­ity as­sault ri­fles.

Many of the party-go­ers at the event that be­gan Satur­day evening were at­tracted by an in­vi­ta­tion that ap­peared on Face­book, ac­cord­ing to re­porters at the Torreon edi­tion of Mile­nio news­pa­per and tele­vi­sion. The post­ing in­cluded di­rec­tions and a map.

Or­ga­niz­ers of the party were a gay group, Mile­nio said, but the in­vi­ta­tion specif­i­cally said the event was open to all. Al­though that raised the pos­si­bil­ity of an anti-gay hate crime, most spec­u­la­tion cen­tered on drug traf­fick­ers as the as­sailants.

Vi­o­lence has surged in Coahuila, a cov­eted smug­gling tran­sit point, and neigh­bor­ing states as the long­time dom­i­nant Gulf and Si­naloa car­tels bat­tle the para­mil­i­tary Ze­tas. Mass shoot­ings at clubs, bars, re­hab clin­ics and other sites are now com­mon.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In­ves­ti­ga­tors say they sus­pect the at­tack Satur­day on party-go­ers in Torreon, Coahuila, is drug re­lated. Shells from as­sault ri­fles were found at the site.

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