Bomb at bar in Mexico kills 2, as gangs turn to explosives

MEXICO CITY — A man on a motorcycle delivered a package containing explosives to a bar in north-central Mexico, and the explosion killed two men and injured four.

The bomb blew up seconds after the victims received the package Sunday at the bar next to a casino in the city of Salamanca in Guanajuato state, Gov. Diego Sinhue said Monday.

Video posted on social media showed one man standing on the street outside the bar, bloodied and with apparently severe injuries, after the attack.

While prosecutors earlier said the package had been delivered by two men, Sinhue said it was dropped off by an express delivery driver who was apparently among the wounded.

“This is a terrorist attack unprecedented in the state,” Sinhue said.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Guanajuato has seen an increase in the use of explosives by criminals. Guanajuato is gripped by a turf war between the Jalisco cartel and other gangs backed by the rival Sinaloa cartel.

“In the state of Guanajuato, more than in other places, for some time now they have begun using explosives to commit crimes, and to try to spread fear and terror,” López Obrador said, adding, “This is a delicate situation.”

The president identified the two victims as the owner and the manager of the bar, which also served as a restaurant. He said it was the owner’s birthday, which may have made him less wary of delivery of an unexpected package.

Explosives are sometime used by drug gangs in Mexico, but grenades are more common. Some gangs have begun attaching explosives to drones for aerial attacks.

Prosecutors said they are investigating what type of device was used; López Obrador said the case was likely to be taken over by federal prosecutors, because criminal use of explosives is a federal crime.

The homegrown Santa Rosa de Lima cartel — which is backed by Sinaloa in its fight against the Jalisco cartel — has used car bombs at least twice in Guanajuato, but they either didn’t go off or injured no one.

Security analyst David Saucedo suggested the local cartel may lack expertise in handling bombs.

That has happened elsewhere in Mexico; in the neighboring state of Michoacan earlier this year, a member of a local cartel was reportedly killed when trying to assemble a bomb-laden drone.

In recent weeks, the same gang was able to capture a Jalisco cartel drone attached to a mortar round that failed to explode.

But Saucedo said Sunday’s attack may mark a refinement in Santa Rosa de Lima’s bomb skills.

“Yesterday’s bomb showed a greater level of ability in handling explosives,” Saucedo said. “They used exactly the right amount needed to kill whoever opened the box. An explosive wave of 5 meters (yards) in diameter, a highly precise job.”

Casinos and bars in Mexico have been frequent targets of extortion demands by drug cartels, which have set fire to businesses or sprayed them with gunfire to enforce such demands in the past.

Bombings were frequent in Colombia when drug gangs were battling the government in the 1980s. But the Colombian cartels are believed to have hired foreigners with expertise in explosives.

While there were several hundred fewer killings in Guanajuato in the first seven months of this year compared to 2020, Guanajuato remains the state with the highest number of homicides.