Armed men shot and killed three state police officers and a Red Cross paramedic in Guerrero yesterday as humanitarian aid was being distributed to residents of a small town.
Nine other people were wounded in the attack, which occurred just after 11:00am in San Juan Tenería, a community in the municipality of Taxco.
According to state security spokesman Roberto Álvarez Heredia, around 20 armed men dressed in military-style clothing arrived in five pickup trucks at a sports field where Red Cross volunteers were handing out winter clothing and bedding.
The gunmen proceeded to open fire at the police, Red Cross workers and residents. Videos circulating on social media show people running frantically to take cover from the attack.
The gangsters fled the scene with the slain officers’ guns and ammunition. State police and the army launched an operation to locate the men but no arrests were made.
Álvarez said the nine people who were wounded, including four other Red Cross paramedics, were taken to the Taxco General Hospital.
Taxco Mayor Marco Parra Gómez said the victims remain in hospital but there is no danger of further fatalities. He claimed that the armed men are from the state of México, which borders Guerrero.
Guerrero Governor Héctor Astudillo said the motive for the attack is unknown, describing it as “an irrational act that verges on terrorism.”
Speaking to reporters outside the Taxco hospital, he added: “even in wars, the Red Cross is loved and respected.”
Taxco Red Cross president Óscar Escorcia said the organization’s brigade of volunteers had requested the presence of police while they distributed aid because armed men had been seen in San Juan Tenería.
In a statement, the organization called on the state Attorney General’s office to promptly initiate an investigation into the attack and urged members of the public to respect its volunteers.
“The Mexican Red Cross is an impartial and independent organization . . . Its only work is humanitarian . . . It doesn’t have partisan or political purposes, it is a neutral organization,” the statement said.
“The attack on our personnel not only affects our organization, but also affects the beneficiaries, because they are people who were hoping to get help to mitigate their suffering.”
Guerrero, a large producer of opium poppies and marijuana, is one of Mexico’s poorest and most violent states.
Two priests were killed in February while traveling on the Iguala-Taxco highway near the scene of yesterday’s attack.
Violence has displaced more than 6,000 people in Guerrero, according to the head of a local human rights organization, who is calling for the state government to declare a humanitarian crisis in response.