Mexican gunmen kill 12 at Christmas celebration

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Mexican gunmen kill 12 at Christmas celebration

Police in Mexico say 12 people were killed and another 11 injured when gunmen stormed a venue at which a group of young people had gathered for a pre-Christmas religious celebration.

The attack happened in the early hours of Sunday local time in Salvatierra, a town in central Guanajuato state.

The local mayor said that the victims had no links to any crime groups.

While deadly shootouts are not unusual in this region, they normally occur when rival gangs target each other.

Local media reported that a group of around 40 mainly young people had gathered on Saturday evening at a former ranch turned into a venue for hire.

They were celebrating Las Posadas (Spanish for “the inns”), a tradition celebrated between 16 and 24 December during which participants re-enact Mary and Joseph’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

One of the people who attended the festivity told AFP news agency that the gunmen had opened fire indiscriminately after they were challenged by the guests.

“We realised they were not invited, and when they were asked who they were, they started shooting,” he said.

The victims of the attack have not yet been officially named, but local newspapers said members of regional Mexican music band Dinastía Cornejo were among the injured.

On its Facebook page, the band asked for people to donate blood at the local hospital. Unconfirmed reports also said that a member of the band’s support staff had died in the attack.

Among those killed were two women. Most of the victims are said to range in age between 17 and 35 years.

The Guanajuato state prosecutor’s office is investigating but so far there has been no statement on why the gunmen may have targeted this particular celebration.

Guanajuato is the state which had the highest number of murders between January and September of this year, according to official figures.

Analysts say the violence is mainly due to criminal gangs dedicated to fuel theft, who fight each other for control of the territory and access to oil pipelines.

The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and the Santa Rosa de Lima cartel are both active in the state and have been increasingly dedicating themselves to stealing oil which they then sell on the black market.