July 19, 2010 in Nation/World

Gunmen kill 17 at party

Mexican officials find no motives
Oscar Villalba Associated Press
 
Soaring toll

Officials say 24,800 people have been killed in drug-gang violence since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels in December 2006, deploying soldiers and federal police to fight traffickers in their strongholds.

PIEDRAS NEGRAS, Mexico – Gunmen stormed a party in northern Mexico on Sunday and massacred 17 people, authorities said.

The assailants arrived at the gathering in the city of Torreon in several cars and opened fire without saying a word, the Coahuila state attorney general’s office said in statement. At least 18 people were wounded.

Several of the victims were young and some were women, but their identities and ages had not yet been determined.

Television footage showed the patio of the house streaked with bloodstains and white plastic chairs overturned beneath a party tent decorated with pictures of snowmen. Police found more than 120 bullet casings at the scene.

Investigators had no suspects or information on a possible motive.

Coahuila is among several northern states that have seen a spike in drug-related violence that authorities attribute to a fight between the Gulf cartel and its former enforcers, known as the Zetas.

In May, gunmen killed eight people at a bar in Torreon. Later that month, a television station and the offices of a local newspaper came under fire.

Across northern Mexico, there have been increasing reports of mass shootings at parties, bars and rehab clinics.

In the worst such massacre this year, gunmen raided a drug-rehab center in the northern city of Chihuahua and killed 19 people last month. In January, gunmen barged into a private party in the border city of Ciudad Juarez and killed 15, many of them high school or university students. Relatives say the January attack was a case of mistaken identity, while state officials claim someone at the party was targeted, although they have not said who it was.

The killings in Torreon came three days after the first successful car bombing by drug cartels, an attack that introduced a new threat to Mexico’s raging drug war.

The FBI has sent a small team to the crime scene to offer technical assistance to the Mexican investigators, FBI spokeswoman Andrea Simmons said. She did not immediately offer more details.

The government attributes much of the rise in violence to infighting among drug gangs.

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