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Mexican authorities investigate massacre after alleged attack by cartel drones and gunmen

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An alleged cartel attack in a remote community in the southern Mexico state of Guerrero killed at least six people and injured 13 others, the Guerrero state prosecutor's office said Sunday.

Those killed apparently died in a burned-out vehicle, according to investigators' interviews with residents, but the bodies were removed by locals before agents arrived.

Agents from the Guerrero prosecutor's office were able to "establish the existence of charred skeletal remains ... in a burned-out car," the office said. The prosecutor's office initially said five people were killed but later updated the death toll to six.

A local human rights organization initially reported Friday that the community of Buenavista de los Hurtado deep in Guerrero's mountains was attacked the previous day by drones and gunmen allegedly from La Familia Michoacana drug cartel.

Authorities take part in an operation following an attack by an armed group, in Buenavista de los Hurtado
Authorities take part in an operation following an attack by an armed group, in Buenavista de los Hurtado, Guerrero state, Mexico, in this handout distributed on January 6, 2024.  Fiscalia General del estado de Guerrero/Handout via Reuters

Six of the wounded made their way to neighboring Tetela del Rio for medical treatment, said the Rev. José Filiberto Velázquez, a priest and director of the group, the Minerva Bello Center.

Velázquez arrived in Buenavista with soldiers and agents from the state prosecutor's office Saturday. He confirmed they found a burned vehicle and shared a video of the burned vehicle with apparent human remains inside. He said locals took the remains away for burial.

The state prosecutor's office said in its statement that investigators offered to take complaints from victims' families and perform genetic testing to confirm their identities, but that the offer was declined.

Interviews with residents did not confirm the commission of other crimes such as forced disappearances or of people being wounded in the attack, the statement said.

The statement said the clash was between La Familia Michoacana and a rival crime group known as Los Tlacos.

Velázquez said many members of the community were missing. His group had been warning for months that the community was caught between warring drug gangs.

Guerrero state spokesman René Posselt confirmed there was a clash, but denied it was an attack aimed at the community. He said evidence suggested the violence was a conflict between organized crime groups.

Posselt said authorities were investigating a video that circulated on social media platforms Friday that purported to show Familia Michoacana members and bodies of Tlacos members.

The Reuters news agency reported that the footage shared by alleged members of La Familia Michoacana showed armed men piling bodies onto a red pickup truck riddled with bullet holes.

Some of the victims appeared to have limbs cut off and at least one had a head missing, the news agency reported. Reuters was unable to independently verify the video, but local media also published videos showing what appeared to be the same truck and burned corpses.

Velázquez said the conflict between the groups had forced some 80 residents of Buenavista to abandon their homes and move to Tetela del Rio.

Posselt said some 170 soldiers, National Guard troopers, state police officers and state prosecutor's agents arrived in the area Friday afternoon to begin the investigation.

In August, the Mexican army released data showing that drug cartels have increased their use of roadside bombs or improvised explosive devices — especially bomb-dropping drones.

Guerrero is one of the poorest states in Mexico, and is used by drug cartels to grow marijuana and poppy.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.

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