Death toll rises to 21 after gun attack on Mexican town

Events in Villa Union add to security lapses raising doubts about president’s strategy

Residents stand in front of a home riddled with bullet holes after the incident in Villa Union. Photograph: AP/Gerardo Sanchez

Residents stand in front of a home riddled with bullet holes after the incident in Villa Union. Photograph: AP/Gerardo Sanchez

 

Security forces shot dead seven more suspected cartel gunmen after a weekend attack on a northern Mexican town, authorities said Sunday, bringing the death toll to 21 and adding fuel to a debate about whether the gangs should be deemed terrorists.

The government of Coahuila state said 10 gunmen and four police were killed in shootouts on Saturday in Villa Union, days after US president Donald Trump fanned bilateral tensions by saying he would designate cartels as terrorists.

The gunmen peppered the Villa Union’s mayor’s office with bullets and state police pursued the gang members after they fled the town, killing seven more in the early hours of Sunday, the Coahuila government said in a statement.

The events in Villa Union add to a series of recent security lapses that have raised doubts about the containment strategy of president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office a year ago pledging to get a grip on chronic gang violence.

A damaged vehicle is parked at the City Hall of Villa Union, Mexico, after a gunbattle between Mexican security forces and suspected cartel members on Saturday. Photograph: AP/Gerardo Sanchez
A damaged vehicle is parked at the City Hall of Villa Union, Mexico, after a gunbattle between Mexican security forces and suspected cartel members on Saturday. Photograph: AP/Gerardo Sanchez

The leftist Lopez Obrador said on Friday he would not accept any foreign intervention in Mexico to deal with violent criminal gangs in response to Mr Trump’s comments.

US attorney general William Barr is due to visit Mexico next week to discuss cooperation over security.

US and Mexican criticism has focused on the November 4th massacre of nine women and children of US-Mexican origin from Mormon communities in northern Mexico, and the armed forces’ release of a captured son of drug lord Joaquin El Chapo Guzman under pressure from cartel gunmen in the city of Culiacan.

Coahuila has a history of gang violence, although the homicide total in the state that borders Texas is well below where it was seven years ago. National homicide figures are pushing record levels. – Reuters