Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Gunmen fire at Mexican eatery with US mayor inside

Monday, December 28, 2009 |

Associated Press


PIEDRAS NEGRAS, Mexico — Gunmen sprayed bullets at a restaurant Tuesday where the mayor of a Texas border town was eating with a Mexican state attorney general and other officials, police said. A woman leaving the building was killed.

Coahuila state Attorney General Jesus Torres and Chad Foster, mayor of Eagle Pass across the border from Piedras Negras, were unharmed, according to police officers at the scene.

Foster was dining with Mexican officials after a ceremony for Jose Manuel Maldonado, the newly elected Piedras Negras mayor who takes office in January.

Torres was rushed out of Piedras Negras and authorities stepped up security at his family's home in the city of Saltillo. Foster left on his own, said police officers, who agreed to discuss the shooting only if granted anonymity out of concern for their safety.

Police scoured the city for the attackers but did not release the names of any suspects or speculate on the motive.

Piedras Negras has seen increasing drug gang violence. In April, gunmen killed the town's police chief, an army colonel who had taken over the local force just three weeks earlier with the aim of purging corruption. Three months later, four other city police officers, including the deputy chief, were kidnapped and remain missing.

Foster, who has close relations with authorities in Piedras Negras and Coahuila state, is a critic of the fence being built by the U.S. government along the border. Coahuila Gov. Humberto Moreira often affectionately refers to Foster as Coahuila's 39th mayor, a reference to the 38 municipalities in the state.

Mexico's drug cartels have staged increasingly bold attacks on Mexican officials and security forces since President Felipe Calderon deployed soldiers across the country to step up the fight against drug trafficking.

In the early hours of Tuesday, assailants gunned down the mother, aunt and siblings of a marine who died during a raid that that killed Arturo Beltran Leyva, the leader of one of Mexico's most powerful cartels.

Also Tuesday, gunmen killed the tourism secretary of Sinaloa, the northern Pacific coast state where Beltran Leyva was buried Sunday.

Sinaloa assistant state prosecutor Rolando Bon Lopez said police were trying to determine if drug gangs were behind the killing of Antonio Ibarra, a father of seven.

Sinaloa is home to some of Mexico's most powerful cartels, including the gang run by Beltran Leyva, who died Dec. 16 during the shootout with marines in the central city of Cuernavaca.

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