Gunmen attack casino in northern Mexico, kill 53August 26th, 2011 - 9:12 pm ICT by BNO News
MONTERREY, MEXICO (BNO NEWS) — A group of armed men carried out an attack against a casino in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey in Nuevo Leon state on Thursday, killing at least 53 people, officials said on Friday.
The attack took place at around 3.45 p.m. local time on Thursday at Monterrey’s Casino Royale when a group of gunmen carrying assault rifles and containers full of gas began shouting and warning everyone within the building to exit because they were to burn the casino.
According to preliminary reports, most of the victims tried to exit through the casino’s emergency exits, but they were reportedly locked. Others ran upstairs fearing an attack from the gunmen, while several more sought for a hiding place in the bathrooms and other areas.
The Governor of Nuevo Leon, Rodrigo Medina de la Cruz, confirmed the deaths of 53 people. The majority of the victims were burnt to death while one was asphyxiated. In addition, 10 others were injured, but reports indicate that the death toll could rise as up to 20 bodies could still be trapped inside the building.
Firefighters and emergency teams had to drill a hole in one of the building’s walls to rescue survivors and pull out the bodies. Witnesses said some 150 people were inside the building when the attack occurred, among them visitors and employees.
Medina de la Cruz, who described the acts as barbaric, later confirmed that the casino, which opened around three and a half years ago, was operating illegally. He said the company could be linked to organized crime.
However, investigations are ongoing as details of the incident remain unclear. At least one witness said the attackers opened fire and heard a grenade explosion, while State Civil Protection chief Jorge Camacho Rincon said victims ran and hid in the bathrooms when gunshots were heard. He said they were unaware that the assailants were going to set the place on fire, which eventually killed most of the victims.
The gunmen reportedly arrived in two vehicle and were able to flee without incident following their attack. According to reports, the casino’s security team did not attempt to thwart the attack, and during their escape, there were no police officers or patrol teams in the area.
President Felipe Calderon condemned the attacks and pledged the country’s fight against organized crime. “I express my solidarity with Nuevo Leon and the victims of this deviant act of terror and barbarism with deep consternation,” President Calderon stated through his Twitter account.
“These reprehensible acts force us to continue in the fight against gangs of unscrupulous criminals,” Calderon said. “All support to Nuevo Leon.”
Meanwhile, Interior Security spokesman Alejandro Poire described the attack as a repugnant and inadmissible act of terror. He assured that the culprits would be held responsible for the ‘describable acts of terror.’
More than 42,000 people have died in drug-related violence since Mexican President Felipe Calderón began his campaign to fight organized crime in December 2006, according to official figures.
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