Sunday slaughter claims 18 lives in Mexico

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By The Staff

PIEDRAS NEGRAS, Mexico (AP) — The gunmen did not say a word as they jumped from their cars and stormed the private party. They simply opened fire. When they were done, 18 people were killed.

Sunday's massacre in the city of Torreon was ghastly, but no longer unprecedented in northern Mexico, a region that is slammed day after day by gruesome slayings that authorities attribute to an increasingly brutal battle between drug gangs feuding over territory.

Investigators had no suspects or information on a possible motive in the attack, but Coahuila, where Torreon is located, is among several northern Mexican states that have seen a spike in drug-related violence as the Gulf cartel and its former enforcers, the Zetas, fight for control of drug-trafficking routes.

The attack on the party came just three days after a car bomb killed several people in the northern city of Ciudad Juarez — and a little more than a month after assailants raided a drug-rehab center in the northern city of Chihuahua, killing 19 people in cold blood.

Photos of the aftermath showed the patio of the house in Torreon streaked with bloodstains and white plastic chairs overturned beneath a party tent decorated with pictures of snowmen.

The Coahuila state Attorney General's Office said in a statement Monday that the death toll rose to 18 overnight after one of the wounded died. There were 12 male and six female victims; among them were four teenagers, the youngest a 17-year-old boy. Seventeen were wounded.

The assailants arrived in a convoy of vehicles. Police found more than 120 bullet casings at the scene, most of them from .223-caliber weapons.