Clashes between police and suspected cartel gunmen in a northern Mexican town killed 21 people this weekend, Reuters reports, citing local authorities.
The government of the northern state of Coahuila said local security forces killed seven gunmen early on Sunday, adding to 10 others who were shot dead during exchanges in and around the small town of Villa Union not far from the Texas border.
Four police were also killed and six wounded in the shootouts, which stunned residents of the town around midday on Saturday, sparking alarm on social media and fresh criticism of the Mexican’ government’s approach to handling the powerful gangs.
Riding into town in a convoy of heavily armed pickups, gunmen sprayed the offices of the mayor of Villa Union with bullets and fought police for more than an hour.
Heavy gunfire echoed through the town on videos broadcast on social media and local television.
Most of the downed gunmen, who were suspected members of the Cartel of the Northeast from Tamaulipas state to the east, were killed by state police in pursuit of the raiding party after it fled the town, Coahuila’s government said.
The events in Villa Union add to a series of recent security lapses that have raised questions about Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s policy.
Lopez Obrador, who is pushing a less confrontational approach to subduing the cartels, repeated on Sunday that he would not accept any intervention from abroad, while doubling down on his strategy of containment.
But the killings clouded celebrations marking his first year in office, which were buffeted by a march in Mexico City by thousands of people protesting the violence.
During a speech in front of tens of thousands of supporters on his first anniversary as president, Lopez Obrador again said Mexico would handle its security problems, in a nod to US President Donald Trump’s comments earlier in the week.
“We won’t accept any kind of intervention, we’re a sovereign, free country,” the 66-year-old veteran leftist said in Mexico City’s Zocalo central square.
Trump vowed last week to designate Mexican drug gangs as terrorist organizations, stirring concerns in Mexico that Washington could try to take unilateral action to crush the narco cartels.
US Attorney General William Barr is due to visit Mexico next week to discuss cooperation on security.
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