EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The death toll from two days of fighting between rival drug cartels in south and western Chihuahua, Mexico, has gone up to 15.

State authorities said a new mass shooting near the town of Madera claimed the lives of five men in a mountain camp that included a crude bunker made of rocks.

Police on Wednesday reported finding a man shot to death at the entrance of the camp and four other fatal gunshot victims about 100 feet away, near the rocks. All the victims were in their 30s and 40s and wore military-style garb but were not soldiers, the state Attorney General’s Office said.

At least one AR-15 style rifle was found at the scene, along with five steel helmets, a bulletproof best and more than 100 rounds of ammunition. Spent bullet casings littered the entire crime scene, state authorities said.

State police officers and Mexican National Guard troops were patrolling the area and the town of Chuhuichupa, near Madera, the Attorney General’s Office said in a statement.

The barn in El Norte, Chihuahua. (State of Chihuahua)

Hours later, they found two additional bodies near a barn in the town of El Norte. The AG’s Office said “there is a presumption they are related to the events in Chuhuichupa.”

Local news reports, citing sources in the AG’s Office, identified the deceased as members of the Jaguars or Jaguares cell of the Sinaloa cartel and the assailants as Juarez cartel operatives. The Jaguars are a major cell of the Sinaloa cartel in Western Chihuahua, formerly led by Francisco Arvizu Marquez, a.k.a. “The Jaguar.” The Jaguar was arrested in 2021, but, according to El Heraldo de Chihuahua, the group is now led by a relative of Arvizu only known as “El Puma,” (The Cougar).

Military-style bunkers, right, can be seen on a mountaintop near the town of Madera, Chihuahua. ((State of Chihuahua)
A rifle seized at the scene. (State of Chihuahua)

Earlier this week, Chihuahua Attorney General Cesar Jauregui said a gun battle in the southern town of Coronado also involved an attack by La Linea (Juarez cartel) on the Sinaloa cartel cell of Los Salgueiro. Authorities initially reported five men were shot to death during the encounter, but on Thursday they confirmed the toll went up to seven.

At least one man was shot dead in a separate incident — hours earlier — inside the Santa Anita Catholic Church in Guachochi, Chihuahua.

Federal, state and local officials held an emergency public security meeting in Guachochi on Thursday afternoon in light of the violence. They decided to establish a joint police-military operations base in the town, initiate joint patrols and set up random highway checkpoints in the region. The base, the officials said in a communique after the meeting, “will allow us to respond to situation that require an immediate reaction.”

Cartel conflict map of Mexico. (courtesy Global Guardian LLC)

Southern and Western Chihuahua have been sites of bloody confrontations between gangs associated with the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels for at least the past four years, authorities and international security organizations say.

Virginia-based Global Guardian in late 2022 published a map showing the entire state of Chihuahua as an area of conflict between the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels.