In the city of Monterrey, Mexico, a group of armed men burst into a casino and used gasoline to set it ablaze, killing at least 53 people, according to The New York Times. Several others were injured in the fire that took place shortly after 3 p.m. on Thursday.
The incident holds the record for the most fatalities in one event since Mexican President Felipe Calderon announced a war on drug gangs several years ago. While Monterrey was once known as a peaceful area, two major crime groups have moved into the city, and have been battling for control. According to the news source, children have been moved from the city, and bodies have often been found hanging from overpasses in the northern city.
The Los Angeles Times reports that around five or six men broke into the casino and poured gasoline on the Casino Royale, then set it ablaze. Witnesses say that the gunmen ordered everyone to leave, but that several patrons ran deeper into the casino in order to avoid the armed men.
People in the casino may have been frightened by the men, as last month, armed gang members entered a bar in the same city and killed at least 20 people with gunfire. However, in this case, it seems as though no guns or grenades were used – only fire.
While an official motive for the incident has not been announced, The New York Times speculates that the casino may have refused to pay money to be protected against gangs. This appears to be a trend in Mexico, as gangs target casinos for extortion and money laundering.
President Calderon took to Twitter to renounce the act of arson as an "aberrant act of terror and barbarity."