A shoot-out between rival drug gangs has killed 19 people in the northern Mexico border state of Chihuahua, according to the state prosecutors’ office.
A total of 18 corpses, two grenades, vehicles and guns were found at the scene of the clash in the hamlet of Chuchuichupa in the township of Madera, the office said on Saturday.
“They are two criminal groups fighting over drug trafficking routes to the United States,” Chihuahua’s Attorney General Cesar Peniche told the Reuters news agency.
Two other men were found armed and wounded on the dirt road where the confrontation took place late on Friday. One died later at a hospital and the other is in custody.
Police and soldiers had been sent to secure the area, where groups allied with the Sinaloa cartel have been fighting other gangs, including a remnant of the Beltran Leyva gang and others aligned with the Juarez cartel.
The killings occurred about 100km (62 miles) south of where nine US-Mexican dual citizens, members of a Mormon family, were ambushed and slain on November 4 by suspected drug-gang assassins.
That incident, which took place on a remote road that connects the Sonora and Chihuahua states, sparked outrage and fears of a possible US invasion after President Donald Trump said he wanted to designate Mexican cartels as terrorist groups.
The Mexican government blamed the La Linea cartel for the November 4 massacre.
Mexico, which has long been plagued by drug cartel violence, saw more murders in March than any other month since President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office in December 2018.
On Friday, Lopez Obrador said violence among criminal groups has persisted despite the outbreak of coronavirus in the country, which has infected more than 1,800 people in Mexico, killing 79.
“It seemed in late March, when the coronavirus had become more widespread, that we would have a considerable reduction [in violence],” Lopez Obrador said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way.”