21 dead in Mexico

MEXICO CITY – Sixty gunmen stormed a ranch, killing 10 people, as a surge of organised crime across Mexico left at least 21 dead.

Gunmen with automatic weapons stormed the ranch of prominent landowner Rogaciano Alba Alvarez, who was the target of two attacks in two days, authorities said.

Six people were wounded in the assault on the ranch in Petatlan, Guerrero state.

“Early this morning (Sunday), shortly after midnight, some 60 gunmen launched an assault on the home of Rogaciano Alba Alvarez, head of the Guerrero Cattlemen’s Association, with at least nine people killed and another six seriously injured,” a state official told AFP.

Another person died later on the way to the hospital. The owner was not among those killed.

Hitmen arrived at the Alba ranch in six pickup trucks and opened fire with AK-47s, killing the ranch workers. The state official said one of the owner’s daughter was believed to have been kidnapped.

The violence came just 24 hours after Alba narrowly escaped an attack by another hit squad Saturday at a hotel in Iguala, also in Guerrero state. Seven people were killed in that incident and another eight wounded.

The hotel was hit as the ranchers were preparing an industry convention.

Alba, who also was targeted in an attack in 2006, is a past mayor of Petatlan (1993-1995). Local media have linked him to paramilitary groups accused of killing 17 members of a local rural workers organization.

Meanwhile, four police officers were killed in an ambush in the northern state of Sinaloa late Friday, authorities said. A local media report said another two local police officers had also been killed.

Federal and state authorities on Friday arrested 13 hitmen in Sinaloa and seized weapons and 379,000 dollars as part of the government’s national anti-organized crime operation.

Since December 2006, President Felipe Calderon’s federal government has deployed 36,000 military troops and thousands of police around the country in an operation aimed at clamping down on organized crime.

Officials claimed the rising death toll showed that criminals were panicking about the clampdown.

“This reaction by organized crime reflects how the Mexican government is fighting it in an unprecedented and systematic way,” Public Safety chief Genaro Garcia Luna said at a weekend ceremony honoring policemen slain in recent days.

So far, organized crime has been behind a total of 1,100 deaths throughout Mexico since the beginning of this year, according to a tally by El Universal newspaper.

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