Mexico City: An attack on a casino in the northern Mexican industrial city of Monterrey has left at least 20 people dead and a dozen others injured, the city's mayor said.
    
The mayor, Fernando Larrazabal, told reporters that the toll could still rise, adding that rescue efforts were ongoing.
    
"The information that I have right now is that there are at least 20 people" dead, Larrazabal said.
    
Officials in Nuevo Leon state, of which Monterrey is the capital, had said the casino fire was sparked by a makeshift bomb, but a woman who survived the attack said men had doused the establishment with petrol and set it ablaze.
    
Footage broadcast by Milenio television showed thick plumes of smoke emanating from the casino through holes made in the walls by firefighters.
    
Local media reported that casinos in Monterrey have recently been targeted because some owners have refused to pay protection money demanded by criminal gangs linked to the country's booming drugs trade.
    
Only a few years ago, Monterrey had been seen as one of Mexico's safest cities.
    
But Nuevo Leon state and its capital, which is home to four million people, have seen an increasing amount of drug-related violence, with more than 70 people killed in Monterrey last month alone.
    
Nearly 850 people were killed in the state in the first half of the year, as compared with 278 murder victims for all of 2010, according to a tally by the national newspaper.
    
More than 41,000 people have died in violence linked to Mexico's organized crime gangs since President Felipe Calderon launched a military crackdown on them in December 2006, according to media counts and official figures.

(JPN/Bureau)