Mexican security forces continue to hunt for members of a cartel assault force that staged a brutal attack near the Texas border town of Eagle Pass. At least 21 people, including police officers, government workers, civilians, and cartel members have been killed in the latest onslaught by cartel gunmen over the weekend.
The violence erupted on Saturday when a convoy of trucks with cartel members went into the town of Villa Union, Mexico, about 35 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border in the northeastern state of Coahuila. The shootout between the cartel gunmen and security forces lasted about an hour, according to CNN. In addition to the dead, at least six people were also injured and several municipal workers are missing. Two civilians were found dead after being abducted.
One of the buildings that came under attack was the town’s city hall, which news sites and social media photos show riddled with dozens of bullets. Other photos show a damaged pickup truck with at least four bullet holes in its windshield and the annitials C.D.N. painted on its side. “C.D.N.” are the Spanish initials for the Cartel of the Northeast.
Authorities say the gunmen entered the town in at least 14 vehicles and some were dressed in military garb. Security forces seized more than a dozen guns after the initial attack. Some of the cartel members fled in stolen vehicles, including a hearse headed for a funeral, according to the Boston Globe.
The violence continued into Sunday as federal Mexican security forces chased the fleeing gunmen. Coahuila State Governor Miguel Angel Riquelme told local media that the state had acted decisively to combat the attack and take back the town. The governor also noted that security forces would remain in the town for several days.
“These groups won’t be allowed to enter state territory,” the Coahuila government said in a statement.
Authorities do not have a motive for the attack. It’s unclear if the military-style assault was part of the country’s cartel wars over the multi-billion dollar drug and human smuggling trade into the U.S. Authorities say there is no evidence so far that a rival cartel was the target.
Videos from the attack are all over social media. Other videos show men and women crying and consoling each other in the aftermath of the violence. Villa Union is near the town of Allende, Mexico, the site of a Zetas cartel massacre in 2011 that left 70 people dead.
The violence comes amid new statistics that show Mexico’s homicide rate at some of its highest levels in history. The murder rate went up by about two percent in the first ten months after Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador became President. The numbers are staggering. According to federal officials, there were 29,414 homicides in the country in 2019. There were just under 29,000 in 2018, according to Time Magazine.
In November, Mexican drug cartel members killed nine women and children, including a baby. Some of the victims held U.S. citizenship. In October, a military-style attack by the Sinaloa cartel forced the country’s government to release the son of drug lord Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman.
Last month, President Donald Trump said he planned on designating Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations.