Seven people were gunned down Friday by a group of unknown assailants in the western Mexican state of Sinaloa, police said.
The slayings occurred at a service station on the Benito Juarez highway near the town of Angostura, according to a municipal police spokesperson who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Citing a witness, the spokesperson said the attackers wielding AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles brought two handcuffed men into the establishment with them and proceeded to subdue four employees and the driver of a truck at the scene.
“They ordered the workers at the establishment, the driver and the two guys they had brought in in handcuffs to lie face down on the road” and then killed them execution-style, the spokesperson said.
Authorities have identified five of the victims.
They suspect that groups linked to drug cartels were behind these killings, as well as the slayings of two other people Thursday morning on that same highway.
Sinaloa, birthplace of the first generation of Mexican drug kingpins, including Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman, the country’s most-wanted fugitive, has been one of the states hardest hit by drug-related violence in recent years.
Criminal outfits are also suspected in attacks that left five people – including a police officer – dead Thursday in the northern city of Chihuahua, officials said.
Sgt. Roberto Cordoba Alanis came under attack at a bar on the city’s north side while responding to an anonymous tip about armed men inside, Carlos Gonzalez, spokesman for the Chihuahua state Attorney General’s Office, told Efe.
Cordoba, who received multiple gunshots to the head, died while being rushed to a local hospital, he said.
Minutes after the attack, municipal police arrested two male suspects in the killing, the state AG’s office said.
In a separate incident, a woman and three other people were killed outside a nightclub by a group of armed assailants, Gonzalez said.
Three of the victims died outside the establishment while the fourth person perished hours later at a hospital, municipal spokespersons said.
Chihuahua – where Ciudad Juarez, Mexico’s murder capital, is located – has been among the states most affected by drug cartels’ battles over smuggling routes to the United States.
According to official figures, more than 6,500 people were killed in drug-related violence in that state across the border from the U.S. states of Texas and New Mexico in the first nine months of 2011.
Mexico’s drug war death toll stood at 47,515 from December 2006 to Sept. 30.
The murder total has grown every year of President Felipe Calderon’s military offensive against the well-funded, heavily armed drug cartels.
Unofficial tallies published in December by independent daily La Jornada put the death toll from Mexico’s drug war at more than 50,000.