Gunmen kill 20 at cockfight in troubled western Mexican state

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MEXICO CITY, March 28 (Reuters) - Gunmen massacred 20 people on Sunday night in a suspected gangland attack at a clandestine cockfighting venue in western Mexico, authorities said, in one of the worst mass shootings under the current government.

The killings took place in Las Tinajas in the state of Michoacan, where the powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) has been fighting local gangs for control of drug routes.

"It was a massacre of one group by another," President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told a regular news conference, expressing his regret at the deaths.

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He blamed criminal gangs in the area for the killings and said a team was on the way to investigate the crime.

Seventeen of the dead were men and three were women, and officials secured 15 vehicles as part of the investigation, Michoacan state prosecutors said in a statement.

All the victims had gunshot wounds, and the last of them died on his way to hospital, authorities said.

Four people were being treated for injuries.

Michoacan has long been one of the most lawless areas in Mexico, and last month, the United States temporarily suspended shipments of avocados from the state after U.S. inspectors received threats. The suspension was later lifted. read more

Gang violence was fuelling record levels of homicides by the time President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office in late 2018 pledging to pacify the country, adopting a less confrontational approach to dealing with organized crime.

But widespread violence has persisted, and average annual homicide totals are on track to be the highest under any Mexican administration since modern records began.

Homicides were down nationally during the first two months of 2022 compared to the same period last year, but they were up in Michoacan, according to official government data.

Las Tinajas is in the municipality of Zinapecuaro, about 50 km (30 miles) northeast of the state capital, Morelia.

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Reporting by Frank Jack Daniel in London and Mexico City Newsroom; Editing by John Stonestreet, Ed Osmond and Bernadette Baum

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