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Cartel, police war-like battle leaves 22 dead in northeast Mexico

Two US citizens are safe after being kidnapped by Mexican cartel during shootout in which 22 died – as Mexican president warns Trump ‘we won’t accept any kind of intervention’

  • Donald Chapman and Colby Williams safely made it back to the United States after cartel gunmen stole their vehicles while they were on a hunting trip
  • The Coahuila state Attorney General’s office was notified of their disappearance Saturday before gunmen unleashed an attack on the police in Villa Unión 
  • Four police officers were among the 22 people who died as a result of a gun fight with members of the Northeast Cartel in Mexico on Saturday
  • Coahuila Governor Miguel Riquelme said Monday that two additional gunmen died early Monday morning
  • A total of 14 suspected members of the ‘Inferno Troop,’ an armed wing of the Northeast Cartel, were killed during fight that lasted over an hour
  • Firefighters Joaquín Cabrera and Antonio Espinoza were located and rescued Sunday, and were in good health after they were kidnapped by the assailants

Two American hunters are reportedly back in the United States and unharmed after they were briefly held hostage by a gang of cartel gunmen.

The bandits stole their trucks and then unleashed a ferocious attack on security forces in northeastern Mexico on Saturday that claimed the lives of 22. 

Donald Chapman and Colby Williams were on a hunting trip near Villa Unión when they were carjacked by suspected members of the ‘Inferno Troop’ an armed wing of the Northeast Cartel, newspaper Zocalo reported.   

The Coahuila state Attorney General’s office was notified of their disappearance and launched a search for the two men before they returned safely to the U.S. 

Their 2019 Ford F-250 and a 2018 GMC Sierra were part of the fleet of vehicles that were then used in an attack on the Villa Unión city hall building.  

Security forces also located and rescued two firefighters, identified as Joaquín Cabrera and Antonio Espinoza, and Benito, a 15-year-old boy, who were kidnapped and used as human shields by the gunmen to flee. 

Among the dead are 14 suspected members of the ‘Inferno Troop’, four cops and two civilians, according to an official report from the state attorney general’s office.

Six police officers also suffered non-life threatening injuries. 

The names of the cops were not released.

At least two gunmen were arrested during a Monday morning operation in a remote area between the states of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas. 


The Villa Unión city hall building was riddle with bullet holes after a gun battle between Mexican security forces and suspected gunmen connected to the Cartel del Norte [Northeast Cartel] on Saturday

Law enforcement agents tend to one of their partners following an attack in the northeastern Mexican state of Coahuila

A convoy of dozens of vehicles carrying more than 60 heavily armed men arrived in Villa Unión, Coahuila, Saturday and killed four cops and injured six others. Pictured above is a pickup truck belonging to the Northeast Cartel 

Police and military have been sweeping the area surrounding Villa Unión for those involved in the midday Saturday attack.

A convoy of dozens of vehicles carrying more than 60 heavily armed men arrived in Villa Unión and began shooting up city hall. Riquelme said state security forces arrived within an hour and surrounded the town, which is about an hour’s drive southwest of Eagle Pass, Texas.

The town of about 5,000 people was still littered with burned-out vehicles Monday and the city hall´s facade was riddled with bullet holes.

‘They wanted to send a message to the state (government),’ Riquelme told Radio Formula. He said the Northeast Cartel, based in neighboring Nuevo Leon state, had made 15 attempts to establish itself in Coahuila since he became governor two years ago.

‘We have not permitted the entrance of these criminals in our entity,’ he said. ‘They thought they were going to enter, strike and exit, something that didn’t happen.’ 

Video posted to social media recorded panicked residents seeking cover while rapid-fire shooting echoed in the background.

The Northeast Cartel is a splinter group from the Zetas, a cartel with roots in elite military units. 

Bullet holes riddled a room inside a church in Villa Unión, a city in northeast Mexico where a war-like battle between cops and gunmen tied to the ‘Inferno Troop,’ an armed wing of the Cartel del Norte [Northeast Cartel], left 22 people dead on Saturday

A suspected cartel vehicle was seized on the streets of Villa Unión, Coahuila, after a shootout

Firefighters Joaquín Cabrera (left) and Antonio Espinoza (right) were found in good health Sunday after they were kidnapped a day earlier by suspected members of the Northeast Cartel

The Zetas long dominated Nuevo Laredo, a border city in the state of Tamaulipas, as well as other parts of the state, and were known for military-style operations and grotesque violence intended to intimidate their enemies.

‘They’ve been looking to expand into Coahuila for years,’ Riquelme said, though the Zetas long had a strong presence in the state.

Villa Unión is just 12 miles from the town of Allende – site of a 2011 massacre involving the Zetas in which officials say 70 died.

The governor said that all hostages taken Saturday, including some minors, had been rescued. Cartel members had taken some locals with them as guides as they tried to make their escape along back roads.

Many of the vehicles the gunmen arrived in Saturday were emblazoned with the cartel’s initials as were their bulletproof vests.

Of the 17 vehicles seized, four carried .50-caliber machine guns, the governor said. About 36 homes were also damaged in the shooting, he said.

The hour-long shootout in Villa Unión, which only has 5,000 residents, happened in a community less than 50 miles from the US border. San Antonio is to the northeast about 3 1/2 hours away

Spent bullet casings lay on the street after the gun battle between Mexican security forces and suspected cartel gunmen

Police guard the highway leading to Villa Unión, Mexico. Mexican security forces on Sunday killed seven more members of a presumed cartel assault force that arrived in a convoy of pickup trucks and attacked the town’s city hall on Saturday, putting the overall death toll at 22

Mexico’s homicide rate has increased to historically high levels this year. 

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has faced criticism after a string of high-profile massacres that his government does not have a coherent security strategy.

More than 32,000 have been murdered since the leftist leader took office a year ago. 

On Monday, López Obrador praised Coahuila’s governor for his attention to security in the state. 

Later in the day he was scheduled to meet with about 30 members of two families whose relatives were among the three women and six children, all dual national U.S. and Mexican citizens, who were killed by cartel gunman in the border state of Sonora in November.

‘We’re going to provide support to erase the signs of this unfortunate incident so that the people of Villa Unión can return to their normal and daily lives,’ he said.

Riquelme echoed López Obrador’s stance that the country does not need the United States to get involved with the crime wave that has been unleashed by the cartels, especially after U.S. President Donald Trump vowed to designate them as terrorist organizations.

‘I don’t think that Mexico needs intervention. I think Mexico needs collaboration and cooperation’, said Riquelme, whose party is in opposition to Lopez Obrador. 

‘We’re convinced that the state has the power to overcome the criminals’. 

Police patrol Villa Unión, Mexico,  on Sunday, a day after it was assaulted by gunmen who were suspected of being members of the ‘Inferno Troop,’ an armed wing of the Northeast Cartel

Police block a road in Villa Unión, Mexico, on Sunday, a day after it was assaulted by gunmen. The battle left 14 suspected members of the Northeast Cartel, including two who died overnight Monday

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