A confrontation between security forces in Mexico's embattled state of Sinaloa and an armed group left 19 dead and 5 injured, and provided further evidence of a splintering Sinaloa Cartel.
The battle, which took place on June 30, began in the town of Villa Unión, southeast of the resort town of Mazatlán in Sinaloa state when an armed group operating in four vans killed two men, Noroeste reported.
Police intercepted the vans and two policemen were injured, according to Noroeste. From there, more police pursued the armed group into a rural area of Mazatlán, eight kilometers from Villa Unión.
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A firefight ensued that killed 17 suspected criminals and injured 3 more police officers, officials said. In total, 19 suspected assailants were killed and five police officers were injured, according to Noroeste's account. Authorities also seized 14 AK-47 rifles, 4 AR-15s, 1 G3 rifle, 1 shotgun, and 9 handguns from the group's vehicles, Noroeste reported.
Citizens of Mazatlán requested clarification on the details of the battle. Some expressed skepticism regarding the official version of events and suggested that some of those killed were murdered extrajudicially. The Attorney General's Office responded, claiming there was no evidence of extrajudicial killings, Noroeste reported.
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Violence has ebbed and flowed in Mexico over the years, but Sinaloa has remained a near constant hotspot, in part because of the steady atomization of the country's most prolific drug cartel.
This process has accelerated since the recapture and extradition of former Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán. The Sinaloa Cartel's traditional structure has been threatened by internal power struggles and expansion efforts from the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación - CJNG).
SEE ALSO: Sinaloa Cartel News and Profile
Mazatlán is thought to be controlled by Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, one of the Sinaloa Cartel's last remaining traditional capos whose role in the cartel's restructuring is unclear. However, the recent violence suggests that the cartel's leadership is in further disarray and is facing more pressure than ever from the lower echelons.
Evidence of this came recently when Sinaloa Cartel leader Dámaso López Núñez, alias "El Lic" or "Licenciado," made a power play to take full control of the organization. But El Lic was arrested, and now the chaos is reaching new heights.