CIUDAD VICTORIA, Mexico — At least 18 people including three minors were killed in shootouts in northern and southern Mexico over the weekend, state authorities reported.
In the border city of Matamoros, a string of armed encounters between gunmen and security forces left eight dead and terrified residents, and in the southern state of Guerrero, at least 10 people were shot dead after an argument at a 15-year-old's coming-of-age party erupted into violence.
Meanwhile, National Security commissioner Renato Sales on Monday announced the arrest of the presumed leader of the remnants of the Beltran Leyva drug cartel, which has fragmented in recent years after the capture or killing of its principal capos.
Seven of those killed Sunday in Matamoros, across from Brownsville, Texas, were presumed criminals, according to a statement from the government of Tamaulipas state. The eighth fatality was a 13-year-old girl who was at a crowded shopping mall with her family and was caught in the crossfire. The statement said she was struck by a bullet fired by one of the suspects.
The violence began in the afternoon with a traffic stop in which the occupants of an SUV with Texas license plates allegedly opened fire on authorities, and three suspects were killed. Authorities seized weapons, ammunition and packets of marijuana hidden in a suitcase.
That unleashed a series of chases and shootouts elsewhere in the city, as suspected criminals blocked roads with buses and other large vehicles to try to impede the movement of police and soldiers.
In the second incident, state agents shot dead three armed men who were traveling in two SUVs. More weapons were seized.
A group of suspects fled from there to the mall, where another firefight broke out with Mexican soldiers, and the girl and another gunman died.
Matamoros is a stronghold of the Gulf drug cartel, which operates in most of northern Tamaulipas.
In Guerrero, another hotspot of violence, at least nine people were shot dead at the end of a private gathering in the municipality of Coyuca de Catalan, state prosecutors reported.
As the "quinceanera," or coming-of-age party, was winding down Saturday, an argument broke out that escalated from words to weapons. Two of the dead were identified as 16- and 17-year-old boys.
In a separate attack on a couple in Coyuca de Catalan, gunmen killed a woman, prosecutors said.
Sales, the National Security commissioner, said alleged cartel boss Francisco Javier Hernandez Garcia was detained Saturday in the northern state of Sinaloa.
He added that Hernandez started as a bodyguard for members of the Beltran Leyva family, which founded the eponymous drug gang, and later rose to control cartel operations in three northern states.