Four police officers were among nearly two dozen people killed after security forces engaged in an hour-long gunbattle with suspected cartel members Saturday in a Mexican town near the U.S. border, days after President Trump said he was moving to designate Mexican drug cartels as terror organizations.
The armed group of suspected cartel members stormed the town of 3,000 residents in a convoy of trucks, attacking local government offices and prompting state and federal forces to intervene.
Coahuila state Gov. Miguel Angel Riquelme told reporters the state had acted “decisively” to take back the town.
Riquelme told reporters that police had identified 14 vehicles involved in the attack and seized more than a dozen guns.
The governor said that security forces will remain in the town for several days to restore a sense of calm.
The town is about 12 miles from the site of a 2011 cartel massacre where officials say 70 died.
How’s Mexico Murder Rates?
Mexico’s murder rate has increased to historically high levels, inching up by 2 percent in the first 10 months of the presidency of Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Federal officials said recently that there have been 29,414 homicides so far in 2019 – up from 28,869 over the same period last year.
The three women and six children — all members of dual-citizen families that lived in La Mora, a decades-old settlement in the Sonora State founded as part of an offshoot of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — were on their way to see relatives in the U.S when they were targeted about 70 miles south of Douglas, Ariz., by cartel members.
In early November, Mexico made international headlines when a drug cartel ambush killed nine Americans, focusing world attention on rising violence in the country.
Riquelme on Saturday made similar comments to Lopez Obrador on how Mexico should handle the problem.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr is scheduled to visit Mexico this week to discuss cooperation over security, according to Reuters.