’50 Gunmen’ Attack Mexico Town Hall, Police Station

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An unidentified group of at least 50 gunmen attacked the mayor’s office and the police station in troubled Michoacan state, in what appears to have been intended as a show of strength rather than a targeted raid.

Five people were killed during the attack, including the director of public security for the municipality, three police officers, and one civilian.

Press estimates for the number of gunmen range from 50 to 80 people, who entered the municipal capital of Vista Hermosa at around 9.30 p.m., July 21. They drove trucks and used these to block off the main entrance and exit points into the town square.

The gunmen then opened fire on the town hall, where a meeting between councillors was taking place. According to Milenio, more than 2,000 bullets were fired at the building.

The director of public security for the municipality then apparently exited the police station in the town plaza, reportedly in order to see what was going on. He was shot and killed.

A team of back-up police sent in from the nearby town of La Barca, Jalisco, reportedly tried to confront the gunmen, but three of them were killed during the confrontation.

Before entering Vista Hermosa, the gunmen destroyed a gas station along the highway, which resulted in no deaths or injuries.

InSight Crime Analysis

The director of public security for Michoacan state said he hadn’t heard of any threats issued against local authorities in Vista Hermosa. He added that a likely reason for the attack was the July 19 arrest of the local commander of the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (CJNG) criminal group.

This area of Michoacan is one of the most conflicted in the department, with several splinter groups — including the CJNG, the Knights Templar (Caballeros Templares), and the Familia Michoacana — all fighting for control of the territory. Vista Hermosa has also been particularly prone to violence directed against the local authorities: the town mayor was killed here in February 2009.

The sheer amount of force used during the target — as well as the burning of the gasoline station just before the gunmen entered Vista Hermosa — seems to indicate that the attack was more about displaying the group’s strength, rather than pursuing a specific target. The current Vista Hermosa mayor has only been in office since January, while the slain municipal director of public secretary reportedly had only spent a few months on the job.

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