The City Hall of Villa Union is riddled with bullet holes after a gun battle between Mexican security forces and suspected cartel gunmen on Saturday. At least 21 people were killed, four of them police officers when an armed group in a convoy of trucks stormed the town 40 miles southwest of Eagle Pass, Texas. (Gerardo Sanchez/AP)
MEXICO CITY — Gunmen attacked a town hall in northern Mexico, authorities said Sunday, triggering a series of clashes with security forces that left 21 dead — most of them suspected members of an organized crime group.
The attack started at around noon on Saturday, when men in at least 14 trucks brandishing assault rifles swept into the town of Villa Union, around 40 miles southwest of Eagle Pass, Texas. Authorities said they were believed to be members of the Cartel of the Northeast, an offshoot of the once-powerful Zetas.
The gunmen unleashed a furious battle at the town hall, leaving the facade peppered with bullet holes. Mexican police and soldiers fought the attackers and then pursued them as they fled, according to the Coahuila state officials.
The security forces, backed by army helicopters, chased the gunmen down in an operation that stretched into Sunday morning. The dead included four state police officers and 17 alleged cartel members.
The clash came days after President Trump said he planned to designate Mexican cartels as foreign terrorist organizations — prompting fierce opposition from Mexican authorities. Mexico fears such a designation could hurt investment and tourism and open the possibility of unilateral U.S. action in its southern neighbor.
Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said he planned to meet this week with U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr to try to head off the terror designation and step up cooperation in fighting violence.
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