Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua - Three people connected to the US consulate in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez have been killed, the White House has said.
They include a consulate employee and her husband, both American, and the Mexican husband of another employee. Robert Cason said consular employee Lesley A. Enriquez and her husband Arthur H. Redelfs of El Paso, Texas, were killed in Ciudad Juarez. Cason is Redelfs's stepfather.
The couple was executed by a heavily armed commando on Saturday afternoon as they were travelling in a Toyota SUV with Texas plates. The gunmen chased them down and caught up to them, riddling the vehicle with a hail of bullets right behind the City Hall. In the attack their ten month daughter who was in a baby chair in the back seat survived the attack.
Witnesses at the scene said that armed commandos were pursuing the Toyota from the streets Mayo and Malecon where the sicarios fired several shots at them. The man and woman, between the ages of 23 to 27 years old, were both killed at the street of Francisco Villa Avenue were the vehicle, still moving, crossed the opposite lane and crashed into a red Grand Am and a sign.
U.S. consular employee Lesley A. Enriquez and her husband, El Paso County Detention officer Arthur H. Redelfs, were gunned down inside their SUV Saturday afternoon near the Santa Fe International Bridge.
Redelfs was a 10-year veteran with the Sheriff's Office.
This double murder shocked even the municipal officers when they discovered that in the back seat sat a baby girl of about three months of age, who was crying softly.
In another development almost simultaneously the husband of another woman who also works at the embassy was executed.
Almost simultaneously the radio frequency of the municipal police a call was heard of a man that had been executed by gunfire at the intersection of Avenida Insurgentes and Artículo 39 in the community of Segunda Burócrata.
The victim was traveling in a 2009 Honda at the time of the attack. At the scene it was learned that the victim was a Ministerial officer and was travelling with a minor who was injured and was transported to a private clinic.
Unofficial sources say the man is the husband of an employee at the U.S. Consulate in this city.
The White House said President Barack Obama was "outraged" by the murders and would work with Mexican officials to bring the killers to justice.
Mexico is battling a drug war that has killed some 18,000 people since 2006.
Meanwhile, the State Department has authorised government employees at six US consulates in northern Mexico to send their family members out of the area over concerns about rising drug-related violence.
The six consulates are in the border cities of Tijuana, Nogales, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Monterrey and Matamoros.
The three victims were killed in drive-by shootings on Saturday afternoon, a US official told the BBC on condition of anonymity, citing privacy considerations.
"The president is deeply saddened and outraged by the news," White House National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said in a statement.
"In concert with Mexican authorities, we will work tirelessly to bring their killers to justice," he added.
The White House statement did not provide any details of the incident in Ciudad Juarez, where more than 2,600 people were murdered last year in drug-related violence.
Recent violent attacks have led the US Embassy in Mexico City to advise American citizens to delay unnecessary travel to parts of the Mexican states of Durango, Coahuila and Chihuahua, the State Department said in a statement on Sunday.
On Saturday, 13 people were killed in an outbreak of drug-related violence in the southern Mexican beach resort of Acapulco, officials said.
Acapulco is one of Mexico's biggest tourist resorts, but in recent years it has been the scene of bloody turf wars between rival drug cartels.
3 people associated with U.S. consulate killed in Mexico
Three people connected to the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, were killed in two drive-by shootings, a senior White House official told CNN Sunday.
Two of the victims were an American employee at the consulate and her U.S. citizen husband. Their 1-year-old child, who was in a vehicle with the couple at the time of the shooting, survived the incident, according to the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.
The American couple, identified by Mexican authorities only as a woman about 25 years old and a man around 30, were found dead inside a white Toyota RAV4 with Texas license plates, according to the Chihuahua state attorney general's office.
The woman was shot in the neck and left arm, while the man had a bullet wound near his right eye, officials said.
"We know that the U.S. citizens were targeted," Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz told CNN, saying a police officer witnessed a car shooting at the Americans' car. "We know they were chasing them. We know they wanted to kill them."
The Americans were identified as Arthur Redelfs, 34, and Leslie Enriquez by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, where Redelfs worked as a detention officer.
Redelfs was a 10-year veteran of the department, according to Jesse Tovar, a spokesman for the sheriff's office.
"On behalf of the men and women of the Sheriff's Office, I would like to extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to the family during this difficult time," said Sheriff Richard Wiles. "Our thoughts and prayers are with them."
Authorities retrieved only one shell casing, from a 9 mm weapon.
About 10 minutes before authorities received the call, they were alerted to a body inside a 2003 Honda Pilot. Inside was the husband of the Mexican employee, identified as Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, 37. Reyes said the victim was a state police officer who was married to a Mexican employee at the U.S. consulate.
Two children, 4 and 7, were injured in that shooting and transported to the hospital, the attorney general's office said.
Police recovered two shells at that scene from an assault rifle, authorities said.
"The president is deeply saddened and outraged by the news of the brutal murders of three people associated with the United States Consulate General in Ciudad Juarez," National Security Council Spokesman Mike Hammer said in the statement Sunday. "He extends his condolences to the families and condemns these attacks on consular and diplomatic personnel serving at our foreign missions. In concert with Mexican authorities, we will work tirelessly to bring their killers to justice."
In response, the U.S. State Department authorized the temporary relocation of employees' families working in border-area consulates.
"These appalling assaults on members of our own State Department family are, sadly, part of a growing tragedy besetting many communities in Mexico," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement Sunday night. "They underscore the imperative of our continued commitment to work closely with the Government of (Mexican) President (Felipe) Calderón to cripple the influence of trafficking organizations at work in Mexico."
The families of employees at U.S. consulates in Tijuana, Nogales, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Monterrey and Matamoros, are allowed to leave for a period of 30 days "in response to an increase in violence along the Mexican side of its border with the U.S.," State Department spokesman Fred Lash told CNN.
After 30 days, the authorization can be renewed, depending on a review, Lash said, adding that this was not a mandatory evacuation.
The announcement was part of a warning to American citizens regarding travel to Mexico.
The warning urges U.S. citizens to delay nonessential travel to parts of the states of Durango, Coahuila and Chihuahua, where Juarez is located, because of recent violent attacks. U.S. government employees are restricted from traveling to all or parts of these three states.
The attacks include the kidnapping and killing of two resident U.S. citizens in Chihuahua, the warning states.
"Some recent confrontations between Mexican authorities and drug cartel members have resembled small-unit combat, with cartels employing automatic weapons and grenades," the warning says. "During some of these incidents, U.S. citizens have been trapped and temporarily prevented from leaving the area."
The mayor said the shootings highlight a problem shared by both countries along their border.
"It is not just a Mexican problem -- it's is a U.S.-Mexico problem," Reyes said. "I'm very glad that the U.S. has taken that position."
He said he supported the State Department's authorization to consular families and that "it is important they feel safe."
Mexico on Sunday said that its government was committed to protecting all people, citizens and visitors alike, diplomats or not.
"The Mexican government deeply laments the killings of three people linked to the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez," Mexico's foreign ministry said in a statement. "The Mexican authorities are working with determination to clear up the facts surrounding the crime scene and put those responsible before the law."
Juarez is one of the front lines in Mexico's war against the drug cartels that operate in its territory. More than 2,600 people were killed in Juarez in 2009.
Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, has become a focal point of Mexican President Felipe Calderon's anti-drug efforts after the January 31 killings of 15 people, most of whom were students with no ties to organized crime. The incident sparked outrage across Mexico.
In the western state of Guerrero, at least 25 people were killed in a series of violent acts on Saturday, state officials said.
The bodies of 14 people, including nine civilians and five police officers, were found in various parts of the resort city of Acapulco, the official Notimex news agency reported, citing Guerrero Public Security Secretary Juan Heriberto Salinas.
In the small city of Ajuchitlan del Progreso, 10 civilians and one soldier were killed in two shootouts that started when federal officials tried to carry out search warrants on two locations, Salinas said.
Police in the state were on a heightened security alert, he said.
The government has not released official figures, but national media say 7,600 Mexicans lost their lives in the war on drugs in 2009. Calderon said last year that 6,500 Mexicans died in drug violence in 2008.
U.S. Consular Aide and Husband Killed in Mexico.
New York Times
Gunmen believed to be linked to drug traffickers shot an American consulate worker and her husband to death in the violence-racked border town of Ciudad Juárez over the weekend, leaving their newborn baby wailing in the back seat of their car, the authorities said Sunday. They also killed the husband of another consular employee and wounded his two young children.
The shootings appeared to be the first deadly attacks on American officials and their families by Mexico’s powerful drug organizations. They came during a particularly bloody weekend when nearly 50 people were killed around the country in drug-gang violence, including attacks in Acapulco as American college students began arriving for spring break.
The killings followed threats against American diplomats along the Mexican border and complaints from consulate workers that drug-related violence was growing untenable, American officials said. Even before the shootings, the State Department had quietly made the decision to allow consulate workers to evacuate their families across the border to the United States.
In Washington, President Obama expressed outrage at the “brutal murders” and in a statement from the White House vowed to “work tirelessly” with Mexican law enforcement officials to bring the killers to justice. Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton said the killings underscored the need to work closely with the Mexican government “to cripple the influence of trafficking organizations at work in Mexico.”
In a sign of the potential international reverberations of these killings, President Felipe Calderón of Mexico similarly expressed his indignation and condolences and said he would press forward with “all available resources” to control the lawlessness in Ciudad Juárez and the rest of the country.
The FBI was sending agents to Ciudad Juárez on Sunday to assist with the investigation and American diplomats were also en route to meet with their Mexican counterparts, said Roberta S. Jacobson, the American deputy assistant secretary of state who handles Mexico.
“We take very seriously when our employees are harmed, whether the intention was to harm U.S. employees or not,” she said in a telephone interview Sunday. “The question of whether this represents some ratcheting up of the drug war will depend on the reason behind the killings.”
The coordinated nature of the attacks, the automatic weapons used and the location in a city where drug cartels control virtually all illicit activity point toward traffickers as the likely suspects, said Mexican and American officials, declining to be identified. But one Mexican law enforcement official said he suspected that the consulate employees might have been singled out because of their work as providers of visas, not as an attack by the cartels against the United States.
American interests in Mexico have been attacked by drug traffickers before but never with such brutality. Attackers linked to the Gulf Cartel shot at and hurled a grenade, which did not explode, at the American consulate in Monterrey in 2008, Mexican authorities said. In his statement, President Obama was quick to laud the anti-drug offense launched three years ago by Mr. Calderón, which is backed up with more than $1 billion in United States funds. But a growing chorus of critics of Mexico’s drug war, which has led to spiraling levels of violence in hotspots across the country, have begun calling on Mr. Calderón to find a new approach.
One of those critics, former Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda, said in a telephone interview on Sunday that given the level of violence “it is surprising that this has not happened before.” The tragedy, he said, ought to prompt the Obama administration to rethink its support for what he said was Mr. Calderón’s failed strategy.
In fact, Mr. Calderón is scheduled on Tuesday to make his third visit to Ciudad Juárez in the last five weeks as he attempts to contain the disastrous public relations fallout from the killing of 16 people in January that Mr. Calderón first brushed off as “a settling of accounts” between members of criminal gangs.
Those killings and Mr. Calderón’s blunder — he was in Japan at the time and later blamed mistaken information for his error — prompted the government to shift course after three years of its military-led crackdown on drug cartels and acknowledge that it has to involve citizens in the fight and deal with the social breakdown fueling the violence.
“The argument is absurd that the killings are a sign of his success,” Mr. Castañeda said, repeating an oft-heard refrain of both the Mexican and American governments.
The shootings in Ciudad Juárez took place in broad daylight, within minutes of each other on Saturday afternoon as the victims were on their way home from a social gathering at another consulate worker’s home.
The first attack was reported at 2:32 p.m.
Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, 37, the husband of a consular worker, was found dead in a white Honda Pilot, with bullet wounds to his body, the authorities said. In the back seat were two wounded children, one aged 4 and one 7. They were taken to the hospital.
Shell casings from a variety of caliber weapons were found at the scene.
Another call came in exactly 10 minutes later, several miles away. This time it was a Toyota RAV 4 with Texas plates that had been shot up, with two dead adults inside and a baby crying from a car seat in the back. Mexican officials identified the couple to The Associated Press as Lesley A. Enriquez, 25, a consulate employee, and her husband, Arthur H. Redelf, 30, from across the border in El Paso, Texas.
Ms. Enriquez, an American citizen, was shot in the head. Her husband was shot in neck and left arm. A 9 mm bullet casing was found at the scene.
Concerned about the rising violence, the State Department had decided that employees at a string of American consular offices along the Mexican border — Tijuana, Nogales, Ciudad Juárez, Nuevo Laredo, Monterrey and Matamoros — could temporarily evacuate their families to the United States.
Three with links to U.S. Consulate in Juarez are slain.
Assailants gunned down three people returning from a party at a U.S. Consulate employee's home in the Mexican city of Juarez, including a pregnant U.S. government employee and her husband, in two attacks a few minutes apart that prompted a furious response from the White House on Sunday.
The White House said President Obama was "deeply saddened and outraged" by the slayings, which occurred in broad daylight. They appeared to be the latest sign of the surge of drug violence in Mexico in recent years, which has claimed thousands of lives in border cities such as Juarez. But it was unusual for U.S. citizens to be slain -- particularly an American government employee.
State Department officials said authorities were still investigating whether the victims were targeted by drug gangs, but it did not appear that the slain consular employee was involved in counternarcotics work. Her in-laws identified her as Lesley A. Enriquez, 35, of El Paso, just across the border. She was a locally hired employee of the consulate whose job involved helping U.S. citizens, American officials said.
Her husband, Arthur Redelfs, 34, worked for the El Paso County Sheriff's Department, according to his brother, Reuben Redelfs.
"We do not have any indication at this point they were targeted" for their work or their links to the U.S. Consulate, said one State Department official. Another U.S. official, also speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is underway, said the case "appears to be one of mistaken identity."
About the same time that Enriquez and her husband were killed, gunmen also fatally shot the third victim, a Mexican man married to a Mexican employee at the consulate. U.S. officials did not identify him.
Even the hard-bitten local police in Juarez were moved by the deaths of the American couple, according to the Juarez newspaper El Diario. When the officers arrived at the victims' bullet-riddled Toyota van, they discovered a baby girl crying disconsolately in the back seat, the newspaper reported. At first, the police thought the infant was wounded, but she was unharmed. The 7-month-old girl was the couple's first child, and they expected another in five months, family members said.
"This is shocking to everyone," Reuben Redelfs, the brother of the victim, told the Washington Post in a telephone interview from El Paso. "People need to know what's going on down here. It's become a war zone. . . . It's just horrible what's happening."
According to Diario de Juarez, gunmen firing bullets chased the couple's white van shortly after 2 p.m. Saturday, and it swerved out of control, crashing into oncoming traffic near the bridge linking the two countries.
About the same time, the third victim, the husband of a consulate employee, was killed as he traveled in another part of Juarez in his late-model Honda, according to Diario de Juarez. The gunmen boxed in the man's car, shot him and wounded his two children, according to Reuters.
The White House statement extended Obama's condolences to the victims' families and vowed to "work tirelessly to bring their killers to justice."
The attacks occurred as the State Department was taking the unusual step of authorizing U.S. government employees at six consulates in northern Mexico to send their families out of the region because of the bloodshed. That announcement was in the works before the three killings, officials said.
Obama's statement emphasized that the U.S. government would continue its support for Mexico's fight against drug traffickers, which is being backed by hundreds of millions of dollars in American equipment and training.
At least 18,000 people have been killed in Mexico since December 2006, when Mexican President Felipe Calderón deployed the army to battle increasingly powerful traffickers.
Mexico Condemns Murders of Three People Linked to U.S. Consulate.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon on Sunday condemned the murders of three people linked to the U.S. consulate in this northern border city, considered to be the most violent urban area in the country.
In a communique, the president expressed his “outrage” over the incident and sent “his deepest condolences to the relatives of the victims.”
He also reiterated “the unshakeable commitment of the Mexican government to clearing up these serious crimes,” as well as its commitment “to continue dedicating all available resources to strengthen the conditions of public safety in Ciudad Juarez and throughout the national territory.”
U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday said that he was “outraged” at the “brutal murders,” according to a communique released by the U.S. National Security Council.
The dead are a U.S. woman, an official at the consulate, and her husband, who were shot to death in the central part of the city while driving in a white SUV with Texas license plates, the state that borders Mexico from the Gulf of Mexico up to Ciudad Juarez, the latter just across the Rio Grande from El Paso.
Authorities have not officially released the identities of the victims, but it was revealed that the couple, who were between 25 and 30 years old, were killed with 9 mm handguns.
A 3-month-old baby who was riding with the couple was unhurt in the attack.
In addition, a state policeman, the husband of an employee at the consulate, was murdered on Saturday by a group of armed men, also in downtown Ciudad Juarez.
The policeman was riding in a vehicle with his 4-year-old son, who was unhurt.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Relations Secretariat also said in its own communique that “the Mexican authorities will work with determination to clarify the situation in which the deeds took place and to bring those responsible to justice.”
The secretariat said that it will “maintain coordination with U.S. diplomatic authorities as the investigation moves forward.”
With these three killings, the number of homicides registered so far this year in the border city surpasses 480, to which must be added 2,650 in 2009 and 1,600 in 2008, the overwhelming majority of them specifically attributed to organized crime.
In the past three years, organized crime – primarily drug trafficking cartels – have caused more than 17,000 deaths in Mexico, according to press reports.
In the face of the rising violence, the United States and Mexico have tightened their cooperation to combat the drug cartels.
The United States, the largest consumer of illegal drugs in the world, has admitted – as per the words of some of the country’s top officials – its responsibility in the problem of drug trafficking in Mexico.