Seventeen partygoers shot dead in Mexico

Scene of the Torreon party shooting

An attack on a birthday party in the northern Mexican city of Torreon has left 17 people dead and more than a dozen injured, police say.

Gunmen sprayed bullets at revellers after storming the party inside a walled garden in the city in Coahuila state, across the border from Texas.

Drug gangs are fighting over the region, which is a key transit point along smuggling routes into the US.

Mexican officials are blaming an organised crime gang for the killings.

'Kill them all'

The attackers drove up to the party, taking place in the open but within the grounds of a recreation centre, before opening fire on those present with a machine-gun, reports said.

The victims, aged between 20 and 38, included the man who was celebrating his birthday.

"They came in, opened fire and shot against everything that moved," an official at the Coahuila prosecutor's office told Reuters news agency, on condition of anonymity.

The same source said the attackers had pulled up at the venue of the birthday party in five 4x4s, smashing down a door to reach the walled garden where the party was being held.

A source within the state police department told AFP news agency that witnesses had reported hearing the group yell "kill them all" before opening fire.

The attack took place at around 0130 (0630 GMT) on Sunday in a recreation centre popular for weekend parties, the agency says.

More than 200 bullet casings fired from automatic weapons were found at the scene, officials said.

Coahuila is thought to be a stronghold of the powerful Zetas cartel, says the BBC's Julian Miglierini in Mexico City.

But their control over this territory is now said to be facing a challenge from their former allies, the Gulf Cartel, in an alliance with the Sinaloa cartel led by Joaquin Guzman, Mexico's most wanted man.

This turf war has increased violence in Coahuila, of which this latest attack is one of the most gruesome examples.

The Mexican government says more than 24,800 people have died in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon launched a crackdown on the cartels in December 2006.

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