Mexican villagers killed amid cartel battle

Vanessa Buschschlüter, BBC News

At least 11 people have been killed amid clashes between rival cartels in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.

Reports by local media say that two nuns and a teenager are among those killed.

The area is fought over by the Sinaloa cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG).

But residents said the victims were locals who were “massacred” by cartel members.

Residents reported hearing intense gunfire on Monday night.

Police and soldiers confirmed on Tuesday that they had found 11 bodies in the village of Nuevo Morelia and its surrounding area.

The diocese of San Cristóbal, of which Nueva Morelia forms part of, confirmed that two women “who served the Catholic Church” were among those killed.

A 15-year-old boy has also been confirmed as one of the victims.

However, it was not clear if the two were lay members of the Church or nuns, as some local media reported.

Locals said there had been fighting between the rival cartels since Friday.

The Sinaloa cartel and the CJNG have been fighting for control of the area for several years.

The criminal groups extort migrants who cross the southern state on their way north to Mexico’s border with the United States.

Communities in the region have been hard hit by the violence, sometimes having to hide in their homes for days as shots ring out outside.

In January, hundreds fled their homes in Chicomuselo, the area where Nuevo Morelia is located, to escape the violence.

Confrontations between the two cartels flared up again at the end of last week when members of the criminal organisations set abandoned homes alight in Nuevo Morelia and surrounding villages.

A resident told Spanish international news agency Efe that some of the villages had no power after gang members had damaged the electricity poles.

Police and forensic experts have been deployed to the area but locals claim they have been left largely unprotected.

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