Mexico City (AFP) – Mexican authorities said Tuesday they have arrested 10 alleged gunmen from a drug cartel commando that attacked a town near the US border, leaving six locals and 17 assailants dead.
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 buildings with bullets, including houses and the city hall.
The army, National Guard and police then engaged the gunmen in a series of firefights Saturday and Sunday that killed 23 people, according to an updated toll from authorities in Coahuila state.
Two kidnapped city employees, four state police and 17 gunmen died in the attack, the authorities said.
The episode marks the latest security embarrassment for leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office a year ago vowing to curb the gruesome violence of Mexico’s “drug wars.”
The authorities mounted a large manhunt after the attack, announcing eight new arrests Tuesday, in addition to two suspects detained earlier.
Coahuila Governor Miguel Angel Riquelme said those arrested “participated directly in the attack on Villa Union City Hall and the houses they shot up along the way, as well as the confrontation” with the security forces.
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.
“Their instructions were to come scare people and sow terror and seize that turf,” Riquelme told Mexican radio network Formula.
“I believe they want to open up a new drug-trafficking route” to the United States, he added.
Lopez Obrador, who marked one year in office just as the incident was taking place, has suffered a series of security setbacks recently, including a botched attempt to arrest the son of jailed kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and the massacre of nine women and children from a US-Mexican Mormon family last month.