Dozens of gunmen mounted rare and apparently coordinated attacks targeting two army garrisons in northern Mexico, touching off firefights that killed 18 attackers.
The attempts to blockade soldiers inside their bases – part of seven near-simultaneous attacks across two northern states – appeared to mark a serious escalation in Mexico’s drug war, in which cartel gunmen attacked in unit-size forces armed with bulletproof vehicles, dozens of hand grenades and assault rifles.
Dozens of gunmen tried to blockade two army garrisons in northern Mexico, touching off firefights that killed 18 attackers, the army said Wednesday in announcing what appeared to be a rare drug cartel offensive. Only one soldier was wounded.
While drug gunmen frequently shoot at soldiers on patrol, they seldom target army bases, and even more rarely attack in the force displayed during confrontations Tuesday in the border states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon.
Gunmen staged seven separate attacks on the army, including three blockades, Gen. Edgar Luis Villegas said. He said the attacks were “desperate reactions by criminal gangs to the progress being made by federal authorities” against Mexico’s drug cartels.
Villegas said gunmen parked trucks and SUVs outside a military base in the border city of Reynosa trying to block troops from leaving, sparking a gunbattle with soldiers. At the same time, gunmen blocked several streets leading to a garrison in the nearby border city of Matamoros.
Another gang of armed men opened fire from several vehicles on soldiers guarding a federal highway in General Bravo, in Nuevo Leon state.