Gunmen massacre 17 at Mexico birthday bash

The government said the attack, at a party gathering in the northern city of Torreon, appeared to be the work of a drug gang, but officials said they had not determined the possible motive for the killings as of late Sunday. Among the dead was the birthday honouree, a man whose name was given only as Mota, according to authorities quoted by local media. Mota is the Mexican slang word for marijuana.

The gunmen, who struck around 1:30 am, were travelling in a convoy of eight cars, witnesses told local media. Without warning they entered the party and began firing indiscriminately before escaping. “They shot anything that moved,” according to a local police source quoted in the newspaper El Norte.

Among the dead were five women. Although the vast majority of the nearly 25,000 people killed since President Felipe Calderon began his attack on drug gangs in December 2006 have been men, women have increasingly become targets.

Transit point
Torreon, in the state of Coahuila, which borders Texas, has become a battleground in the drug war as a transit point to the United States. At the end of January, gunmen killed 10 young people in an attack in a bar there. In May, eight more young people were killed in an attack in another Torreon bar. Several of those who were killed were students and did not appear to have any links to drugs.

In May 2009, a journalist from Torreon was abducted and killed by kidnappers that investigators suspect were members of the Zetas drug gang.

The birthday party killings in Torreon came three days after a car bomb in the border city of Ciudad Juarez killed four people, including two federal policemen. It was the first time that a car bomb had been used in an attack in the drug violence, leading to fears that Mexico may be facing a new kind of terrorism.

Attorney General Arturo Chavez Chavez said that the car bomb was in retaliation for the arrest of a top gang leader on Thursday.

As for the increasing levels of violence, he attributed it to feuding among drug gangs. “When the organisations are split, the strongest keeps what it already has and the splinter group goes in search of new latitudes, and that means they invade spaces that already belonged to somebody. That provokes conflicts and wars, which is what we’re living.”

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