MEXICO CITY (AP) — A gunbattle between rival gangs killed 11 people during a Virgin of Guadalupe celebration in a western Mexican town, authorities said Saturday.
Armed men arrived in three cars and opened fire on another group of gunmen in the main plaza of Tecalitlan just as a crowd was gathering Friday night, the Jalisco state attorney general’s office said in a statement. One of the gunmen hurled a grenade.
Eight men were killed at the scene, and two others died at a hospital, the office said.
Another man, the brother of one of those killed in the plaza, was found shot to death next to a car on the highway just outside the small town, the statement said.
Inside the car, which had been reported stolen, authorities found two banners. One read: “We haven’t come to kill innocent people. We’ve come for El Zopilote.” The other said, “We do not charge quotas.”
Photographs of the aftermath showed overturned chairs in front of a stage where a mariachi band was set to play. A large image of the Virgin of Guadalupe loomed over the scene.
Police were investigating whether the death of two other men, whose torched remains were found inside a car in the nearby town of Zapotiltic, were tied to the Tecalitlan shootout.
In Tecalitlan, police recovered a grenade launcher and bullet clips for AK-47 and AR-15 rifles.
The banners and the weapons suggested the gunmen were drug gang members, but authorities had no information on the suspects or motive for the shooting.
Tecalitlan is near Michoacan state, where La Familia cartel leader Nazario Moreno Gonzalez was killed this week in two days of shootouts between gunmen and federal police.
At least 11 other people were killed in the violence in Michoacan, including a baby and a teenage girl. Cartel gunmen attacked motorists and used their vehicles as barricades across the state to prevent federal police from sending reinforcements to Apatzingan, the town where the government says Moreno was killed in a shootout Thursday.
The government says cartel gunmen fled with some of their dead and Moreno’s body has not been recovered.
Mexico’s bloody drug war has claimed more than 28,000 lives since President Felipe Calderon intensified a crackdown on cartels when he took office in late 2006.
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