Masked men set fire to major market in Mexico, killing nine

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A porter hauls a load of crates at a market in Mexico City [File: Fernando Llano/The Associated Press]

Authorities say the violence in the city of Toluca, near Mexico’s capital, was possibly linked to business conflicts.

A group of masked men have carried out a deadly attack on a market in the central Mexican city of Toluca, discharging their guns before setting the location on fire, according to authorities.

“Nine people lost their lives, eight of them at the site and one more in a hospital,” a statement from the State of Mexico’s prosecutor said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack on Monday, and a suspect was not immediately named.

The statement added the attack could be linked to business conflicts. Toluca Mayor Raymundo Martinez told the Milenio newspaper that the fire was probably the result of disputes between vendors and owners of premises at the market.

Three of the dead appeared to be under 18, but identifications were still pending, according to prosecutors.

The market in Toluca where the attack occurred is the second largest in Mexico, with approximately 26,000 daily visitors.

Toluca is a city of almost a million inhabitants and is considered part of the capital’s metropolitan area, with some residents commuting to Mexico City to work.

In the past, gangs have set fires at public markets in Mexico to extort protection payments from vendors. However, some recent blazes have also been set by vendors disputing stall placement within the markets.

Monday’s attack was the latest instance of bloodshed in Toluca, where two hacked-up bodies were discovered last week.

Signs found with the bodies showed the Familia Michoacana drug cartel had claimed responsibility. The gang originated in the neighbouring state of Michoacan in the early 2000s.

While largely chased out of its home state, the criminal group has reestablished itself in the State of Mexico and the neighbouring southern state of Guerrero. But that has placed the Familia Michoacana in a bloody turf war with other criminal groups.

Over the weekend, prosecutors in Guerrero said that four taxi drivers were shot to death, with at least one of their cars set on fire, in and around the state capital of Chilpancingo.

That city was the scene of another instance of gang violence in late June, when pieces of seven dismembered bodies were left on a downtown street, along with a threatening message from a gang.

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

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