22 killed in shootout in northern Mexico

Coahuila state Gov. Miguel Riquelme Solis looks at a police vehicle hit during a gunbattle between Mexican security forces and suspected cartel gunmen in Villa Union on Saturday, November 30, 2019.

COAHUILA, Mexico — A gun battle between security forces and suspected cartel members in Mexico’s northeast state of Coahuila over the weekend claimed 22 lives, according to a statement from the government there on Monday.

Four police officers, two civilians and “16 criminals” are among the dead, according to the statement, which quoted Coahuila Gov. Miguel Angel Riquelme Solis. Authorities have revised the death toll upwards several times since the battle was first reported.

The lethal, hour-long battle broke out between security forces and suspected members of the Cartel of the Northeast in the town of Villa Union, about 40 miles south of the US border town of Eagle Pass, Texas.

Twenty-five vehicles, four with high calibers guns, numerous long range guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition were also confiscated, according to the statement.

Images from the state government showed a local municipal building and police vehicle riddled with bullet holes.

Five minors were rescued and six members of the police were injured, the statement added.

Criminal groups have long sought to enter the state, Solis had said on Saturday. “Organized crime, specifically the Cartel del Noreste, tries to get into Coahuila every day at some point, in one of its areas,” he said, adding, “Today they got in by force and with a contingent that is not like anything we have seen in a long time.”

But “we won’t allow organized crime to come to the area,” he said.

“Many years ago they came in with impunity,” Solis said. “They came into our cities and municipalities and nothing happened. Not nowadays. This was a forceful response.”

In a press conference on Monday, Mexican president Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador said that the government would release a security report.

The shootout occurred just days after US President Donald Trump said he would designate Mexican cartels as foreign terrorist organizations, adding that the US had offered to “go in and clean it out,” but the Mexican government had “rejected the offer.”

The Mexican government has been in contact with the US regarding the possible designation according to Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, but López Obrador has indicated that he doesn’t want the US to intervene.

Early last month, nine women and children from a Mormon community in Mexico were killed by suspected drug cartels.

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