A fire at the Casino Royale in Monterrey, Northern Mexico has killed 53 people and left dozens injured. It is one of the deadliest attacks on an entertainment centre in Mexico since the president, Felipe Calderon, launched an offensive against drug cartels in late 2006.
Nuevo Leon’s governor, Rodrigo Medina, said in a telephone interview broadcast on Milenio television it appears that six men arrived at the casino in two vehicles, spread a flammable liquid and lighted it. El Norte, a local newspaper, quoted witnesses as saying that at least a dozen men entered and ordered everyone to get out, setting off a stampede for the few exits that was accompanied by explosions, smoke and flames.
Monterrey mayor, Fernando Larrazabal, said many of the bodies were found in the casino’s washrooms, where employees and patrons had locked themselves in to escape the gunmen. Many of the victims appeared to be women and the elderly, who often bet there.
It was the second time in three months that the Casino Royale had been targeted. Gunmen hit the casino and three others on 25 May, but no one was reported injured in those attacks. Much of northeastern Mexico has been besieged for a year and a half by fighting between the Gulf Cartel and former allies known as the Zetas. The bloodshed has been especially shocking in Monterrey, an important business town formerly known for relative tranquility.
Wearing a black suit and tie as a sign of mourning, President Calderon said Friday morning that the country was “facing real terrorists who know no limits. “We have to fight even more forcefully. They can not be allowed to own our streets, our cities,” Calderon said.