Mexican state police and army units clashed with Mexican drug cartel gunmen on Saturday in the town of Villa Union in the northeast Mexican state of Coahuila, near the Texas border town of Nueva Laredo. The resulting violence left at least 21 people dead. 

The violence began when truckloads of armed gunmen, estimated between 70-150, began pouring into the town attacking the town’s municipal hall and other local offices. This attack, right on the doorstep of the United States, will serve to promote President Trump’s message of last week, that he intends to label Mexico’s drug cartels as terrorist organizations. 

After the shootout that left townspeople scared and hiding, several municipal buildings and about 50 homes were riddled with bullet holes.

Government forces found 25 abandoned vehicles. Several witnesses claim that there were twice as many as the cartel poured into the town. Many of the cartel’s vehicles used welded armor plating and gun turrets and had printed placards identifying them as belonging to the cartels. At least four of them had mounted .50 caliber machine guns. 

The AP was the first to report that cartel vehicles began to roll into the town at approximately 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. Residents were enjoying the weekend with many of their relatives that live on the U.S. side of the border. While people in the U.S. were enjoying their Thanksgiving, the town of Villa Union was celebrating Dia del Pavo (Turkey Day). 

With the trucks and vehicles rolling into town, many residents saw the body armor and ammunition vest carriers that the truck occupants were wearing and assumed that they were army troops. However, once residents noticed that several of the trucks either had no license plates or had Texan plates, they knew they were cartel members and began to hide. Other residents saw placards with CDN printed on them. CDN (Cartel del Noreste: Northeast Cartel) is an offshoot of the Zeta cartel. 

The gunmen descended from their vehicles at approximately 11:45 a.m. and began firing into the town’s municipal hall. Petrified civilians were locking doors and hiding in whatever cover they could find. 

After Mexican army troops were dispatched from their barracks west of Villa Union, the gunmen split into two groups and took several locals hostage to use them as guides to navigate the streets and exfiltrate from the town. At least two of the hostages were later found dead.