At least 23 people were killed and another 13 people were injured during an attack on a bar near Coatzacoalcos along the Gulf coast on Aug. 28.
The armed assailants started a fire that ravaged the bar, killing 15 men and eight women in the process, said the Attorney General of the State of Veracruz.
The bar was shot up and Molotov cocktails were tossed in the bar, the BBC also reported. Ambulances and police were seen gathering in the street following the blaze.
— TIME (@TIME) August 28, 2019
The attorney general said that it “strongly condemns the unfortunate events in southern Veracruz.”
The attorney general’s office will now attempt to investigate the “origin of the fire that occurred,” according to the state office.
Veracruz regional governor, Cuitláhuac García, said that police are searching for the attackers, adding that they “will not go unpunished,” the BBC reported.
— AFP news agency (@AFP) August 28, 2019
“I just want to know if he’s OK,” said one unnamed woman, who was near the bar searching for her son.
García also said that a gang dispute might have been the reason for the attack, Fox News reported.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 28, 2019
“In Veracruz, criminal gangs are no longer tolerated,” García wrote of the attack.
The Secretary of Public Safety for the state of Veracruz also condemned the attack on Twitter, saying it took place at the Caballo Blanco Bar and that there was a search operation underway.
Other details about the attack were not provided.
Murder Rate on the Rise
Murders in Mexico jumped in the first half of the year to the highest on record, according to official data, underscoring the vast challenges socialist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador faces in reducing violence in the cartel-ravaged country.
There were 14,603 murders from January to June, versus the 13,985 homicides registered in the first six months of 2018, according to data posted over the weekend on the website of Mexico’s national public security office. This doesn’t include Tuesday’s recent bar attack.
Mexico is on course to surpass the 29,111 murders of last year—an all-time high.
For years, Mexico has struggled with violence as consecutive governments battled brutal drug cartels, often by taking out their leaders. That has resulted in the fragmentation of gangs and increasingly vicious internecine fighting.
Lopez Obrador, who took office in December, has blamed the economic policies of previous administrations for exacerbating the violence and said his government was targeting the issue by rooting out corruption and inequality in Mexico.
“Social policies are very important—we agree they’ll have positive effects. But these positive effects will be seen in the long term,” said Francisco Rivas, director of the National Citizen Observatory, a civil group that monitors justice and security in Mexico.
Reuters contributed to this report.