Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Lynxes and, Azteca Formed Hit Squad

Friday, February 12, 2010 |

'Lynxes,' Azteca formed hit squad: Birthday party attack directed by cartel, gang.

El Paso Times

Karla Cuburu, 22, of El Paso was one of 53 students from El Grupo Nazaret and Life Teen representing a living rosary Wednesday night in memory of all those who have been killed in Juarez, including the 16 slain in the recent birthday-party massacre.

Ciudad Juarez, Chih - A hit team described as the shock troops of the Juárez drug cartel and Azteca gangsters are suspected of being involved in the recent massacre of students in Juárez, according to information from the Chihuahua state attorney general.

The attorney general's office said the involvement of Los Linces and an Azteca leader were revealed in interrogations of two men arrested in connection with the Jan. 30 attack at a birthday party that killed 16 people, including 11 teens.

Los Linces (the lynxes) is a secretive assassination group reportedly made up of former Mexico special forces soldiers. The group works for the Juárez drug cartel, reputedly led by Vicente Carrillo Fuentes.

An unidentified leader of Los Linces, depicted wearing sunglasses in an artist rendering, had a support role in the mass shooting, according to the attorney general's office. The role was not specified.

Los Linces is made up of no more than 80 members operating in cells of four or five in Juárez and Chihuahua City, reported Mexico's El Universal newspaper. Los Linces members are rumored to communicate only with cartel leaders and have been compared with the paramilitary Zetas of the Gulf cartel.

In November, the Mexican army arrested three alleged Linces in Juárez. They were accused in 26 murders, including victims who refused to pay extortion "quotas," members of a rival cartel and independent drug dealers.

More than 4,300 people have been killed in Juárez since 2008, in part because of a war between the Juárez drug cartel and the "Gente Nueva," or the new people, with the Sinaloa cartel, reputedly headed by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

A spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration in El Paso confirmed that the agency is aware of Los Linces.

"Our intelligence indicates that a group we know as Los Linces are operating in Mexico as an enforcement arm under the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization," DEA Special Agent Diana Apodaca said.

Apodaca said there is no indication Los Linces works in El Paso or elsewhere in the U.S.

Mexican authorities said the assault on the birthday party was well-planned. The location was first scouted and the block was then sealed off and lookouts were posted outside before gunmen entered the party at a house in southeast Juárez. Authorities said the killers believed the students were members of a rival gang.

The attack's alleged mastermind, Adrian "El Rama" Ramirez of El Paso, was later killed in a shootout with soldiers. Jose Dolores Arroyo Chavarria and Israel Arzate Melendez, aka "El 24" or "El Country," have been arrested. More than a dozen suspects remain at large.

Chihuahua Attorney General Patricia Gonzalez said the shooters included men working for an Azteca leader.

"Five members of El Rama's group were backed by people from an Azteca leader. É People from the Azteca leader's group were the only ones who had their mouths and jaws covered" by masks, Gonzalez said.

The gang leader was not named.

Eduardo "Tablas" Ravelo, who is accused of being the Juárez boss for the Barrio Azteca gang, is on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list. A spokeswoman for the FBI in El Paso would not discuss whether Ravelo is the gang leader mentioned by Mexican authorities.

A spokesman for the Chihuahua attorney general's office said no further information on the student killing would be released.

"We cannot give out more information because of the ongoing investigation," spokes man Vladimir Tuexi said. "When we have more precise information we will gladly release it."

The massacre of young people, described as good kids, students and athletes, caused an outcry in Juárez -- a city already numbed by two years of rampant and gruesome violence.

Mexican President Felipe Calderón is scheduled to visit Juárez today. He is expected to present his Juárez Initiative Plan to control the violence. Where he will meet with local officials has not been announced.

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