Drug cartel gunmen slaughter 17, bringing bloody weekend’s murder total to 50

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, July 18, 2010 18:22 EDT
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Gunmen armed with machine guns shot dead at least 17 party-goers Sunday, in a pre-dawn attack outside the northern Mexican city of Torreon, officials said.

Authorities said the heavily armed attackers also wounded 10 others as they sprayed bullets through a recreation center in Coahuila state, near Mexico’s northern border with the United States.

A source with the state police department said witnesses reported hearing members of the group yell “kill them all” before they opened fire.

The attack took place at around 1:30 am (0630 GMT) at the recreation center, a popular weekend retreat situated in a usually calm suburb among gardens and lakes. Authorities said they found more than 200 bullet casings fired from automatic weapons following the massacre.

Officials said most of the shooting victims were in their 20s and 30s.

Sunday’s attack brings the number of shooting victims in Mexico to at least 50 over the weekend, most of them in the north of the country.

The brazen shooting was reminiscent of a similar attack in late January when hitmen working for a drug gang opened fire on 16 young partygoers in Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez.

In that attack, some 15 gunmen opened fire on a house party packed with teenagers, most of whom were high school or college students. Some were shot outside the dwelling, others mowed down by the gunmen as they tried to flee.

Violent attacks remain part of daily life in some areas, particularly around the northern border with the United States.

The northern border region, which has several key trafficking routes into the United States, has seen some of the fiercest fighting between Mexico’s powerful drug gangs and with security forces in recent years.

Almost 25,000 people have died in a spiraling drug-related violence in the past three and a half years in Mexico amid a military crackdown on organized crime involving some 50,000 troops.

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico’s most violent city has been hardest-hit by the violence from the bloody turf wars, with some 2,660 murders in 2009 alone — more than seven a day on average.

But Torreon also increasingly has been the scene of recent drug-related violence.

A few days after that Ciudad Juarez house party shooting, gunmen killed 10 people in a weekend shooting in February at a crowded bar.

And two shootouts here later that month, between federal police and suspected members of the Los Zetas drug gang, left seven traffickers and one policeman dead.

Photo: A mock-slaughter staged by drug policy activists in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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