Suspected cartel members shot at Villa Unins mayors office before being chased by police
Security forces have shot dead seven more suspected cartel gunmen after a weekend attack on a northern Mexican town, according to authorities, bringing the death toll to 21 and adding fuel to a debate about whether the gangs should be deemed terrorists.
The government of Coahuila state said 10 gunmen and four police were killed in shootouts on Saturday in Villa Unin, days after Donald Trump fanned bilateral tensions by saying he would designate cartels as terrorists.
The gunmen peppered the Villa Unins mayors office with bullets and state police pursued the gang members after they fled the town, killing seven more in the early hours of Sunday, the Coahuila government said in a statement.
The events in Villa Union add to a series of recent security lapses that have raised doubts about the containment strategy of the Mexican president, Andrs Manuel Lpez Obrador, who took office a year ago pledging to get a grip on chronic gang violence.
Lpez Obrador said on Friday he would not accept any foreign intervention in Mexico to deal with violent criminal gangs in response to Trumps comments.
The US attorney general, William Barr, is due to visit Mexico next week to discuss cooperation over security.
US and Mexican criticism has focused on the 4 November killing of nine women and children of US-Mexican origin from Mormon communities in northern Mexico, and the armed forces release of a son of the drug lord Joaquin El Chapo Guzman under pressure from cartel gunmen in the city of Culiacn.
Coahuila has a history of gang violence, although the homicide total in the state that borders Texas is well below where it was seven years ago. Homicide figures are pushing record levels across the country as a whole.