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Seven members of the same family shot dead in their home in Mexico

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Seven members of the same family have been murdered in Mexico, authorities said Monday, at a time when President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador faces mounting scrutiny of his security policy.

Three women and four men, including a minor, were shot at their home in the municipality of Boca del Rio in the eastern state of Veracruz, the prosecutor's office said. State Attorney General Veronica Hernandez Giadáns said "there will be no impunity."

They belonged to a single family that ran a chain of butcher shops, a National Guard source who did not want to be named told AFP.

More than 340,000 people have been killed in a spiral of bloodshed since Mexico deployed the army to fight drug cartels in 2006.

The government blames most of the deaths on gangs involved in crimes including drug trafficking, fuel theft, kidnapping and extortion.

Questions about Lopez Obrador's security strategy have mounted since two Jesuit priests and a tour guide were murdered on June 27 in a church in the northern state of Chihuahua.

On Saturday, a member of the armed forces died during an operation in which three alleged drug traffickers were captured in the northwestern state of Sonora, Lopez Obrador told reporters Monday.

He defended his security policy, which has focused on tackling the root causes of violence, including poverty.

"We are convinced that violence cannot be confronted with violence," Lopez Obrador said.

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Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador talking during his daily morning media conference at the National Palace, on July 4, 2022 In Mexico City, Mexico. Luis Barron / Eyepix Group/Future Publishing via Getty Images

He called it a "serious mistake" for Mexico to have "declared war on crime" in 2006 under then president Felipe Calderon.

Mexican bishops to put photos of dead priests in churches

Mexico's Roman Catholic Council of Bishops on Monday called on parishes throughout the country to put photos of dead nuns and priests in their churches this Sunday and to hold masses for all those killed in gang-fueled violence.

The call for special celebrations throughout July came after the priests and tour guide were killed on June 20. Authorities have identified a local gang boss reportedly affiliated with the Sinaloa cartel as the suspect in the those killings. José Noriel Portillo Gil, alias "El Chueco," is already wanted over the murder of an American tourist in 2018.

State prosecutors announced a reward of $250,000 for information leading to the capture of the alleged killer of the priests. The office said it was the highest reward offered in the history of the state. The suspect remains at large.

The council also called on the faithful to pray on July 31 for the conversion or redemption of the killers.

Meanwhile, another priest said he was beaten over the weekend in the violence-plagued western state of Michoacan.

Rev. Mateo Calvillo wrote in an open letter that men travelling in another vehicle cut off his car, forcing him to stop, and that one of them came around to his window and beat him savagely. The priest said he knew of no motive for the June 29 attack in the town of Querendaro, saying the man appeared irrational.

On June 24, the Council of Bishops issued an open letter telling the government that "it is time to revise the security policies that are failing."

The two murdered priests - Rev. Javier Campos, 79, and Rev. Joaquín Mora, 80 - had spent much of their lives serving Indigenous peoples of the Sierra Tarahumara mountains. The Jesuits were shot to death in the small church in the town of Cerocahui.

The church's Catholic Multimedia Center said seven priests have been murdered under the current administration, which took office in December 2018, and at least two dozen under the former president, who took office in 2012. In 2016, three priests were killed in just one week in Mexico.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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