According to local sources, gunmen from drug cartels launched an hour-long attack on a Mexican town near the Texas border to help them out of the city.
Four "miners" led by gunmen were also rescued by security forces, the Mexican newspaper Proceso reported on Monday.
A total of 16 gunmen and four policemen were killed in the carnage that began on Saturday around 11:45, when a convoy of cart trucks stormed the town of Villa Union in the morning. state of Coahuila, said the governor Miguel Angel Riquelme, according to Proceso. .
Two civilians who were kidnapped were also killed by their captors, bringing the death toll to 22, Riquelme said.
The two civilians killed were a firefighter and an engineer who worked for the municipality, according to Francisco Contreras, head of the state security agency. A second firefighter was also reported missing.
The Proceso report does not make it clear whether the 22 people were killed on Saturday or whether some of the gunmen were killed Sunday by the forces in pursuit.
Vehicles next to Villa Union Town Hall
A truck bearing the initials C.D.N., which in Spanish means Cartel of the Northeast.
The bloodshed began when the cartel trucks opened fire on the city's municipal building, which houses the mayor's office. This maneuver provoked a fight between the cartel and the security forces – with photos of the suites showing the town hall and a pickup truck with Texas plates riddled with bullets.
On the driver's door are the Spanish initials CDN – Cártel del Noreste, or the Northeast Cartel.
Government officials confirmed to Proceso that the attackers were CDN members and that there were about 60 assailants involved.
The gunmen fled to Nuevo Laredo after the attack. The hearse was one of the vehicles that helped guide the attackers on dirt roads outside the city, according to Zocalo newspaper in Saltillo.
The facade riddled with bullets from the town hall of Villa UnionREUTERS
Authorities seized 18 guns and 17 vehicles, including four armored vehicles, Proceso said.
The motive for the attack remained unclear on Monday. While the cartels were fighting for control of the smuggling routes in northern Mexico, there was no immediate evidence that a rival cartel was targeted during Saturday's attack.
The violence came less than a month after three women and six children of dual American and Mexican nationality, living in a dissident Mormon community in the state of Sonora, were massacred by gunmen in cartels.
Mexican forces promised to stay at Villa Union for several days to restore calm in this restless city – and prevent the cartel from hitting again.
"The resolution of this problem – which is at the root of impunity – should be the central element of an integrated security strategy," said Falko Ernst, an analyst in Mexico for the group in question. Nonprofit Crisis Group, which seeks to promote peace, at the Associated Press. "But such a thing has not yet been presented by [President] López Obrador and his team."
"The price of this absence is notably the development of regional conflict scenarios," he said.
Police patrol on a road after their comrades were killed during an ambush by an alleged cartel member in El Aguaje
With post son