Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Teens Among 14 Killed at Juarez Party

Monday, February 1, 2010 |

It marks the first time students have been targeted.

Ciuadad Juarez, Chih - A gangland death squad killed at least 14 people, all but two of them high school students, and wounded as many as 14 others in an attack shortly after midnight Sunday in the bloody border city of Ciudad Juarez.

A squad of gunmen stormed a teenagers' party in a working-class neighborhood on the city's east side, a few minutes' drive from the city's police headquarters. The party was celebrating a championship soccer game between two high schools and one student's birthday.

While some of the attackers barricaded access to the residential street with their cars, others went room to room inside a small concrete house, firing into the crowd of some 60 partygoers, witnesses said. Some students escaped by jumping over garden walls or taking refuge in neighboring houses. Others were gunned down as they fled.

“They went directly into the house and started shooting,” an unnamed neighbor told El Diario, a Juarez newspaper. “Some people ran and they chased them down.”

Police and soldiers did not arrive at the scene until well after the attack ended. Photographs of the scene show several rooms of a humble concrete house riddled with bullets, with large pools of blood on the floors and on the sidewalk outside. Police recovered 200 bullets from the scene.

Police did not immediately provide names and ages of the victims, but said most were between 15 and 20 years old. Local media reported that Adrian Encino, 17, who had recently been honored by the state governor for academic achievement, was among those killed.

“He died in my arms,” the boy's sobbing grandfather, who had rushed to the site, told reporters.

A couple working a small stand selling snacks to the teens also were shot. The man was killed and his wife severely wounded. Several of the wounded students were reported in very serious condition and police warned the death toll could rise.

Such massacres have become alarmingly frequent since President Felipe Calderon launched a crackdown on Mexico's criminal gangs more than three years ago. The gangland violence has killed more than 16,000 people since then, about a quarter of them in and near Juarez.

More than 2,600 people were murdered last year in the city of 1.3 million people.

Officials told local reporters that one of the students killed had recently testified about another gangland killing in Juarez. The city, which borders El Paso, in recent years has become one of the world's most violent cities as gangsters fight for control of the local narcotics trade.

Fighting for routes to U.S.

Juarez gangs allied with rival narcotics trafficking syndicates have been fighting for access to U.S. consumers via the city's smuggling routes. The gangs have also been fighting for dominance of the quickly growing narcotics market in Juarez.

Sunday's massacre was the first to specifically target a large group of students. Hit squads last year attacked seven Juarez drug rehabilitation centers — which police say sometimes harbor gang members — killing dozens of people.

Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes offered a $75,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the killers.

Sunday's atrocity capped a violent month in Juarez in which at least 220 people were killed, including 10 on Saturday. Across Mexico, gangland violence killed more than 800 people last month, according to the tally by Mexican media.

Elsewhere, as many as 20 suspected gangsters attacked a police station on Sunday with assault rifles and grenades in the Pacific port of Lazaro Cardenas. A policeman and two civilians, who were at the station to pay a fine, were killed.

And in Sinaloa, the Pacific Coast state considered the cradle of Mexico's drug gangs, gunmen ambushed a car carrying a state police official, killing him, another man and three women.

The bound bodies of seven men were dumped Saturday in Iguala, a small city southwest of Mexico City. Notes left with the corpses warned that the men's fate awaits all “thieves, kidnappers and corrupt lawyers.”

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