Mexican forces hunted Monday for a drug cartel commando behind a bloody firefight in a town near the US border that left six locals and 16 gunmen dead the latest security embarrassment for President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
At least 60 gunmen terrorized the small northern city of Villa Union over the weekend, riding into town in heavily armed four-by-fours and spraying dozens of houses with bullets before attacking city hall, taking seven hostages along the way, including five minors.
Officials responded by deploying the army, National Guard and state and local police, triggering a series of firefights Saturday and Sunday that left 22 people dead: two kidnapped city employees, four state police and 16 gunmen, according to authorities in Coahuila state, where Villa Union is located.
Witnesses said the gunmen wore the insignia of the Northeast Cartel, a breakaway from the ultra-violent Zetas, a drug cartel founded by corrupt army commandos in the northern state of Tamaulipas in 2010.
Authorities arrested two of the gunmen, who told investigators the cartel’s objective was to “come in and hit Villa Union hard” in order to “intimidate” the state government, according to Governor Miguel Angel Riquelme.
Riquelme praised the “bravery” of the group of 15 police who responded to the initial attack, whom he said managed to contain the gunmen even though they were badly outnumbered.