12/23/11 – 16 people were killed in Veracruz on December 22 when five armed gunmen went on a killing spree. The killings began when gunmen opened fire on four people in the small town of El Higo and then attacked three passenger buses on a rural highway by Tampico. The death toll has been reported as high as 20 persons, but only 16 deaths have been confirmed. Three of the confirmed dead are United States citizens visiting family for the holidays, which has drawn a serious amount of attention to the incident.
As of now, no information has been confirmed about the identifications of the deceased of the first attack in El Higo, and only the U.S. citizens have been identified from the bus attacks. The latter attacks occured near the Tamaulipas state border, a battleground turf for the Zeta and Gulf drug cartels. The deceased American citizens killed were Maria Sánchez Hernández, 39, of Fort Worth, Texas, and her daughters Karla, 19, and Cristina, 13. All three held dual U.S.-Mexican citizenship.
The U.S. consulate confirmed the American citizen’s identities and urged Americans to exercise caution when traveling in Veracruz and “avoid intercity road travel at night”. Veracruz state spokeswoman Gina Dominguez said in an interview with Milenio TV that the gunmen have yet to be identified. “We are working to identify them, to identify the group that attacked the buses,” she said, but she did disclose that the Mexican Navy recovered an armor-reinforced vehicle, five rifles, 54 ammunition clips, and eight cellphones. Dominguez also noted that the three buses were owned by three different companies and there has been no confirmed motive, though investigations are ongoing. All five of the gunmen were killed in the gunfire when federal forces were alerted and surrounded the scene.
The violence occurred just a day after the entire police forces were disbanded and the Mexican Navy took over the port area of Veracruz and Boca del Rio.