Gang-related violence sprung up in Mexico on Thursday leaving more than a dozen people dead, according to Mexican officials.
The gang-violence occurred in two towns early Thursday morning in Mexico’s Veracruz state.
A group of five armed men first robbed and killed four people who were loading vegetables into a truck in El Higo, according to Mexican government authorities.
The armed men later ambushed three passenger buses traveling on a highway between the towns of Tempoal and Panuco, robbing passengers and killing seven people.
The U.S. Consulate General issued a warning to Americans living in the area to “exercise caution” when traveling in the region and told U.S. citizens to avoid travel at night.
Authorities believe the deaths were part of a violent robbery spree linked to drug gangs in the region.
According to Mexico’s Defense Department, soldiers chased down and killed all five robbers.
The day before the attacks, federal officials informed residents that they would be disbanding police officials and sending in navy service members to patrol the streets.
The unprecedented move saw Veracruz Governor Javier Duarte firing all 900 municipal police members and handing the city over to the Mexican Navy.
The new approach to handling the Mexican drug crisis is an aim by government officials to push out gangs and corruption from the now highly volatile Veracruz-Boca del Rio municipality. Although previously spared from a majority of Mexico's drug violence, the region has witnessed increased levels violence over the last few months.
It remains unclear what the motive was behind the pre-Christmas violence, but the outburst has been blamed on Mexico’s powerful rival drug gangs known as the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel.
Mexico has been enthralled in a deadly drug war since 2006 that has left more than 40,000 people dead across the country.