At least 21 killed in Mex­ico gun bat­tles

New York Daily News - - NEWS - BY KATE FELD­MAN AND DAVID MATTHEWS

At least 17 sus­pected gun­men and four po­lice of­fi­cers were killed dur­ing week­end gun­fights in the state of Coahuila, Mex­ico, about an hour from the U.S. bor­der.

An armed group, pre­sumed to be part of the Car­tel of the North­east, ini­tially stormed the town of Villa Union Satur­day and opened fire on gov­ern­ment build­ings, in­clud­ing the city hall, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials.

Po­lice of­fi­cers, both state and fed­eral, en­gaged the gun­men for more than an hour, Coahuila Gov­er­nor Miguel An­gel Riquelme said.

Four of­fi­cers were killed and 10 gun­men died in the shootout, Riquelme said.

An­other seven sus­pected car­tel mem­bers were killed in an­other shootout early Sun­day, bring­ing the death toll to at least 21.

Six of­fi­cers were in­jured in the shoot­ings, the gov­er­nor said.

Sev­eral peo­ple have also been de­clared miss­ing, in­clud­ing some who were at the mayor’s of­fice when gun­fire first erupted Satur­day.

Sev­eral of the gun­men es­caped the scene in stolen ve­hi­cles and even kid­napped lo­cals in or­der to nav­i­gate out of the town, the gov­er­nor said. A hearse headed for a funeral was among the stolen cars, ac­cord­ing to the news­pa­per Zocalo of Saltillo.

The Coahuila state gov­ern­ment said in a state­ment that law­men aided by heli­copters were still chas­ing rem­nants of the group of at­tack­ers.

The mo­tives be­hind the at­tack re­mained un­clear Sun­day. Car­tels are in a power strug­gle over con­trol of smug­gling routes in north­ern Mex­ico, but there was no im­me­di­ate ev­i­dence that a ri­val car­tel had been tar­geted in Villa Union.

The at­tack was rem­i­nis­cent of a suc­cess­ful mil­i­tary-style oper­a­tion by the

Si­naloa car­tel in the city of Cu­li­a­can in Oc­to­ber to free one of the sons of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guz­man from fed­eral cus­tody.

The shootouts come just days af­ter Pres­i­dent Trump an­nounced a plan to des­ig­nate drug car­tels based in Mex­ico as ter­ror­ist groups af­ter nine Amer­i­cans were killed in a Novem­ber shoot­ing.

“Look, we’re los­ing 100,000 peo­ple a year to what’s hap­pen­ing and what’s com­ing through on Mex­ico,” Trump said on Bill O’Reilly’s ra­dio show, speak­ing of Amer­i­can lives. “And they have un­lim­ited money, the peo­ple, the car­tels, be­cause they have a lot of money be­cause it’s drug money and hu­man traf­fick­ing money.”

Mex­ico Pres­i­dent An­dres Manuel Lopez Obrador re­sponded Fri­day, in­sist­ing he would not al­low any for­eign in­ter­ven­tion.

“Armed for­eign­ers can­not in­ter­vene in our ter­ri­tory,” he said at a press con­fer­ence.

U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr is sched­uled to travel to Mex­ico this month to dis­cuss se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion.

Al­most 20,000 peo­ple have been vic­tims of vi­o­lent deaths since Lopez Obrador took of­fice in December 2018, ac­cord­ing to Mex­ico’s Na­tional Pub­lic Se­cu­rity Sys­tem. The num­ber of peo­ple killed in Mex­ico in 2019 has risen by 2% over the same time pe­riod in 2018.

GERARDO SANCHEZ / AP

The gun­men in the ini­tial at­tack al­legedly be­long to the Car­tel of the North­east.

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