At least a dozen people have died in what authorities believe was a clash between organized crime gangs in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced Wednesday.

The events unfolded in the village of Las Tunas, where five charred bodies were found yesterday Tuesday, according to the state prosecutor’s office.

“We assume, without having all the information at our disposal yet, that this is a conflict between criminal gangs. So far, 12 deaths have been confirmed,” the Mexican president said during his morning press conference, without specifying whether that count included the five bodies found by security forces the day before yesterday.

He also noted that the law enforcement operation was continuing in the hard-to-reach area and that he expected more information to become available during the day.

According to Mexican media, members of the La Familia Michoacana and Los Tlacos cartels clashed in competition for control of the area, through which drug trafficking routes pass.

According to expert David Saucedo, the escalation of violence in the region follows the attempt by the La Familia Michoacana gang, which dominates the neighboring state of Michoacán, to extend its control over Guerrero, which is among the poorest in the country and among those hit hardest by the wave of violence in Mexico.

“It seeks to expand its territorial base” and “meets resistance from other gangs in the region,” the analyst explained to AFP.

According to official data, this conflict resulted in the loss of at least 1,890 lives in 2023.

The village of Las Tunas is administratively under the municipality of San Miguel Totolapan, where executioners had murdered around 20 people in broad daylight in October 2020.

The state of Guerrero is known both for its Pacific beaches, which are a magnet for tourists, and for the violence of the cartels, which vie for control of opium poppy crops and drug-trafficking routes.

According to official figures, more than 420,000 murders have been committed in Mexico since the so-called “war on drugs” was declared in late 2006 by the then president of the country, Felipe Calderon, with the deployment of the armed forces inside the country to crack down on the cartels.