At least 26 people died in a shootout in the northern Mexican border state of Chihuahua early on Wednesday, a spokesman from that state’s attorney general’s office told Reuters.
The incident, which took place near the rural community of Las Varas in south-central Chihuahua, involved two armed groups, and the number of dead could rise, spokesman Felix Gonzalez told Reuters.
According to Mexican newspaper El Diario, based in Chihuahua, the clash left more than 30 people dead. The fighting began at 5 a.m. on Wednesday, when an armed group began firing.
Authorities have yet to reach the area, El Diario reports, it is not yet clear if the killings on Wednesday are related to organized crime.
Some weeks ago, an attack in the same area, southeast of the city of Delicias, left two police officers dead. A few days after that attack, a hidden grave was found with at least eight bodies.
Ciudad Juarez, the state’s major city that sits just over the border from the Texas city of El Paso, has seen considerable violence in years past and in recent months. But rural areas in the state’s interior have also seen violence related to organized crime.
The state’s southwest corner is part of the Golden Triangle, an area of intense opium and marijuana cultivation that has long been controlled by the Sinaloa cartel.
The Sinaloa cartel, weakened after the extradition of kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, is thought to be in a turf war with the resurgent Juarez cartel in Ciudad Juarez, a valuable territory for smugglers.
The powerful Jalisco New Generation cartel is also believed to be active in Ciudad Juarez.
Trafficking routes criss-cross the state, linking cultivation areas in the Golden Triangle with the border.
Chihuahua’s Tarahumara highlands, a rural area near the northern edge of the Golden Triangle, saw more homicides than Ciudad Juarez in September 2015, despite the highlands’ sparse population.
(Reporting for Reuters by Noel Randewich)