Four people have been reported murdered and at least five others were abducted during a criminal group’s incursion into Caborca, Sonora, on Tuesday night.
An armed wing of the Sinaloa Cartel is believed responsible for the violence, reported the news website Infobae, although authorities have not publicly identified the perpetrators.
Citing local media, the newspaper El Universal reported that four people were killed and at least nine people were kidnapped in the city of Caborca, located 150 kilometers south of the border crossing between Sonoyta and Lukeville, Arizona.
However, the Sonora Attorney General’s Office (FGJE) said on Twitter Thursday morning that only five abductions were reported and two of the victims had been released.
“Sebastián Manríquez Verdugo, son of the announcer and journalist of the same name, was found safe and sound in Caborca. The 23-year-old man was reported as a victim of kidnapping after violent events in this city,” the FGJE said.
“Five reports of kidnapping were received in total; two have been released, the search for three people, all men, is continuing,” it said.
In a statement posted to the Caborca municipal government website on Wednesday, Mayor Abraham Mier Nogales acknowledged that lives had been lost and young men had been abducted in the early hours of Wednesday morning but didn’t reveal the number of victims.
“We know that among these [victims] are good people who have nothing to do with organized crime,” he said.
“I acknowledge that the events … in the early hours of the morning exceeded the level of response of police authorities, given that we weren’t capable of preventing these regrettable events,” Mier said. “… I’m in direct contact with state and federal authorities to implement mechanisms that will allow us to recover peace in our municipality.”
The army, the National Guard, state police and municipal police collaborated on an operation Wednesday and made three arrests. Weapons and vehicles were also seized, El Universal reported.
The mayor said in an interview that the violence began at approximately 11:00 p.m. Tuesday when an “outside group” entered the municipality, home to about 90,000 people.
“We had five or six months of peace and now this group has come in,” Mier said, explaining that he didn’t know who they were targeting.
The violence came after a spate of armed confrontations in Caborca and the neighboring municipalities of Pitiquito and Altar in early September.
According to Infobae, alleged Sinaloa Cartel gunmen entered Caborca in 19 pickup trucks on Tuesday night and proceeded to break into and shoot up homes. The attacks lasted more than six hours, affecting at least 40 neighborhoods and sowing terror among residents.
In a video posted online that showed a lifeless man lying on the ground, a clearly distressed woman said she witnessed a shootout at close quarters and was physically assaulted.
“They kicked down the doors, they broke into my cousin’s car, they shoved us, they broke all the windows of the apartments,” she said.
Another woman made a plea for the return of her husband. “To the people who took my husband last night, please, I ask you, I beg you, to hand him over to me. He’s innocent, he’s a working person, a construction worker and I work in the hospital,” she said, adding that their daughter is sick.
In light of the violence and fearing further attacks, Mier ordered businesses to shut by 10:00 p.m. Wednesday and suspended all sporting events. However, there were no reports of additional violence on Wednesday night.
On a per capita basis, Caborca was the 21st most violent municipality in Mexico last year with a total of 102 homicides, according to data compiled by crime monitoring website elcri.men. Sonora was the country’s seventh most violent state for total murders with over 1,900.