Arson attack on casino in Monterrey kills over 50 people
At least 53 people have been killed after an arson attack on a casino in the northern Mexican industrial city of Monterrey which sparked a massive fire.
President Felipe Calderon condemned the attack calling it an "abhorrent and barbaric act of terror" in a message on Twitter and expressed his solidarity with the people of Nuevo Leon, of which Monterrey is the capital.
Local media reports claim casinos in Monterrey have recently been targeted because some owners have refused to pay protection money demanded by criminal gangs linked to the country's booming drugs trade.
For more than a year Monterrey has been at the centre of a battle between the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, two powerful drug smuggling groups vying for control of the lucrative routes north to the United States.
The state head of civil protection, Jorge Camacho, said that the death toll was high because many people hid in bathrooms and offices when they heard the explosions instead of heading to the emergency exits.
They were trapped by the flames, and many died of smoke inhalation, he said.
Calderon ordered Interior Minister Francisco Blake to Monterrey to head the government probe into the attack.
Only a few years ago, Monterrey had been seen as one of Mexico's safest cities, but an increasing amount of drug-related violence has seen more than 70 people killed in the city in the last month alone.
More than 41,000 people have died in violence linked to Mexico's organized crime gangs since Calderon launched a military crackdown on them in December 2006, according to media counts and official figures.
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