SAN MIGUEL TOTOLAPAN, MEXICO (AP) – A drug gang shot to death 20 people, including a mayor and his father, in the mountains of the southern Mexico state of Guerrero, officials said on Thursday.
Residents began burying the victims even as a video posted on social media showed men who identified themselves as the Tequileros gang claiming responsibility for the mass shooting.
The Guerrero state security council said gunmen burst into the town hall in the village of San Miguel Totolapan on Wednesday and opened fire on a meeting.
Among the dead were Mayor Conrado Mendoza and his father, Juan Mendoza Acosta, a former mayor of the town.
Most of the other victims were believed to be local officials.
The walls of the town hall, which were surrounded by children’s fair rides at the time, were left riddled with bullets. However, residents said the attack that killed the mayor occurred a few blocks away.
Totolapan is geographically large but sparsely populated mountainous township in a region known as Tierra Caliente, one of Mexico’s most conflict-ridden areas.
There were so many victims that a backhoe was brought into the town’s cemetery to scoop out graves as residents began burying their dead on Thursday.
By midday, two bodies had already been buried and 10 more empty pits stood waiting.
A procession of about 100 residents singing hymns walked solemnly behind a truck carrying the coffin of one man killed in the shooting. Once they neared the cemetery, several men hoisted the coffin out of the truck and walked with it the waiting grave. Dozens of soldiers were posted at the entrance to the town.
Mexico’s assistant secretary of public safety Ricardo Mejia said the Tequileros are fighting the Familia Michoacana gang in the region and that the authenticity of the video was being verified.
“This act occurred in the context of a dispute between criminal gangs,” Mejia said. “A group known as the Tequileros dominated the region for some time; it was a group that mainly smuggled and distributed opium, but also engaged in kidnapping, extortion and several killings in the region.”
Totolapan was controlled for years by drug gang boss Raybel Jacobo de Almonte, known by his nickname as ‘El Tequilero’.
While the Tequileros long depended on trafficking opium paste from local poppy growers, the growing use of the synthetic opioid fentanyl had reduced the demand for opium paste and lowered the level of violence in Guerrero.
Also on Wednesday, in the neighbouring state of Morelos, a state lawmaker was shot to death in the city of Cuernavaca, south of Mexico City.
Two armed men travelling on a motorcycle fatally shot state Deputy Gabriela Marín as she exited a vehicle outside a pharmacy. A person with Marín was reportedly wounded in the attack.