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Video appears to show more than a dozen men lined up outside funeral service and executed by cartel gunmen in Mexico

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Mexicans were left wondering what happened to more than a dozen men who were seen lined up against a wall by drug cartel gunmen toting assault rifles. In a video apparently shot by a resident of the town San Jose de Gracia in the western state of Michoacan and posted on social media, bursts of gunfire broke out and smoke covered the scene.

The camera cuts away, but some assumed all the men — perhaps as many as 17 — died.

Mexico investigating reports 17 killed in massacre at a wake
The body of a person is seen on a street while people take cover behind a vehicle, in San Jose de Gracia, Michoacan, Mexico, February 27, 2022 in this still image taken from a video posted on social media.  VIDEO OBTAINED BY REUTERS

But prosecutors said Monday that they cannot say how many died, because the attackers cleaned up the scene, washed the sidewalk and carted away any bodies. Investigators found only a bag full of brains and shell casings at the scene.

"So, the investigation is being carried out," Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said, according to Reuters. "But according to the report this morning, no bodies were found, but two vehicles, shell casings, parts of human beings in some bags."

The attack Sunday occurred outside a funeral service for the mother of an alleged hitman who had worked for the Jalisco cartel. Jalisco has been fighting long-running, bloody turf battles in Michoacan against rival gangs.

The Department of Justice considers the Jalisco cartel to be "one of the five most dangerous transnational criminal organizations in the world." 

Mexico Violence
Investigators comb the site where more than a dozen people were believed to have been gunned down by armed men on Sunday, in San Jose de Gracia, head of the municipality of Marcos Castellanos, in Michoacan state, Mexico, Feb. 28, 2022.  Armando Solis / AP

The chief prosecutor of Michoacan state said members of a gang went to the funeral looking for the hitman, who authorities identified only by his first name, Alejandro.

State Prosecutor Adrián López Solís said that the hitman apparently died at the scene and that any other bodies were piled into pickup trucks and carted off by the attackers. Other videos posted on social media showed two or three bodies tossed into a pickup truck.

López Solís said the attack occurred only a few blocks from the town hall, where three local police officers were on duty. He said the police neither went to the scene nor sounded an alarm, contending that "they didn't have sufficient force" to intervene.

López Solís said state and federal authorities learned about the attack from the social media posts, not from any alert by local police.

Local police in Mexico are often out-gunned and out-numbered by cartel gunmen.

There have been a string of recent attacks at funerals in Mexico, as cartel gunmen seek to exterminate members of rival gangs who attend the services.

In February, gunmen in the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez killed three people at a wake of a man who died in prison, and then another six at the same man's funeral later in the day, Reuters reported.

Jorge Luis Anguiano, the mayor whose township includes San Jose de Gracia, said that before the attack a large convoy of vehicles was seen entering from neighboring Jalisco state, home to the cartel of the same name. He said local police didn't have the firepower to intervene.

"Seeing the number of presumed criminals that were there and given the rules of engagement, we had to retreat," Anguiano said. "We do not have the firepower to handle this type of situations."

"In situations like this, municipal governments are left exposed," he said.

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