Gunmen kill eight in hail of bullets at Mexico strip bar

MONTERREY, Mexico Tue Aug 14, 2012 12:36pm EDT

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MONTERREY, Mexico (Reuters) - Gunmen stormed a strip bar in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey late on Monday, killing eight men in a hail of bullets in an attack which bore the hallmarks of organized crime, state security and law enforcement officials said.

Four victims died on site in the Matehuala bar, a well-known drinking and topless dancing venue in the city center, and four more died later in the hospital, officials said on Tuesday.

Monterrey is Mexico's most affluent city and was long been seen as a model of economic development in Latin America. But it has been ravaged by drug warfare over the last three years.

Nuevo Leon public security spokesman Jorge Domene said six gunmen arrived in three vehicles and entered the bar with guns blazing. Six of the victims were believed to be employees of the bar.

"These are dives, illegal bars where there could be some drug dealing, that's one of our main lines of investigation," Domene told Milenio television. Monterrey is the capital of Nuevo Leon state, which shares a border with Texas.

In May, 49 headless bodies were dumped near the city and 52 people died in an arson attack on a casino in August last year.

Both attacks were blamed on the notorious Zetas drug gang, which is waging a war against rival groups for control of smuggling routes into the United States, the world's biggest market for illicit drugs.

There has been a rash of deaths and violence since last week in central and northern Mexico, prompting the government to send in extra troops and armored vehicles to the states of San Luis Potosi, which borders Nuevo Leon, and Michoacan.

A mayor elected in Mexico's July 1 election and his campaign manager were found shot dead in a truck Sunday morning in San Luis Potosi and a family of seven, including three young children, were found dead in their home that day.

A running battle between federal troops and suspected drug gang members on Friday in Michoacan killed nine.

More than 55,000 gangland murders and execution-style hits have occurred since President Felipe Calderon took power in December 2006 and declared a national crackdown on drug cartels.

(Reporting by Gabriela Lopez; Additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Writing by Krista Hughes)

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