Ciudad Juarez, Chih - Eight people, among them a 3-year-old boy, were shot to death in the past few hours in several attacks in this northern Mexican border city across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, officials said Sunday.
In one of the incidents on a ranch near Mexico’s most violent city, a family was attacked Saturday night by a group of pistol-wielding men who crashed a family party, killing two men and a 3-year-old boy.
Authorities said that the child died from gunshot wounds as he was being transported to a hospital.
Among the other victims in the assorted attacks around Ciudad Juarez were a couple who were killed outside a home and three men who were shot in separate incidents on different streets.
A toddler was killed alongside his father in a shooting at a horse race west of Juárez as part of another violent weekend with more than 20 murders.
Ricardo Beltran Flores, 39, and 17-month-old Alfredo Beltran Cervantes were shot Saturday evening at the Carril Siete Leguas. Two other males wounded in the shooting were hospitalized, Chihuahua state police said Sunday.
Ciudad Juarez, with 1.5 million residents, is being patrolled by 8,000 soldiers and 2,400 federal agents and officers who have been deployed to fight the Juarez and Sinaloa drug cartels, who are engaged in a war with one another for control of the lucrative drug routes across the border into the United States.
In one of the attacks, a 14-year-old boy and a woman were injured, the latter evidently being the wife of one of the murdered men. In another attack, two people were wounded by gunfire and were taken to a local hospital emergency room.
The state prosecutor’s office has not yet been able to positively identify any of the dead.
According to unofficial reports, in Ciudad Juarez, more than 300 people have been murdered so far this year, 25 of them women. In 2009, the city experienced 2,635 violent murders, up from about 1,600 in 2008.
Many of the killings are directly linked to organized crime.
Meanwhile, a gunman was killed and five soldiers were wounded in a shootout in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, while two police officers were killed in Ciudad Madero, a city in Tamaulipas state, officials said.
Gunmen in four SUVs engaged an army patrol in a gunfight Saturday night on a highway in Nuevo Leon, state officials said, adding that the suspects fired a bazooka at the troops.
The army troops chased the gunmen, who split into two groups, with some of them taking the highway that leads to the neighboring state of Coahuila and the others heading toward Apodaca, a city in the Monterrey metro area.
One gunman died and two others were arrested in the incident, the Coahuila Attorney General’s Office said.
Five soldiers were wounded – one of them seriously – and were taken to the 7th Military Zone.
A group of armed men dressed in black and wearing hoods, meanwhile, threw grenades at police installations in Apodaca, San Nicolas, Santiago, Guadalupe and Cadereyta, all cities located in the Monterrey metropolitan area, in coordinated attacks staged around 11:00 p.m. Saturday.
The grenades, however, only exploded at the Cadereyta and San Nicolas stations, which the gunmen also fired on, causing damage to the buildings, a state official said.
“We immediately gave instructions so that Public Safety Secretariat personnel and state police officers would go to the cities, especially to San Nicolas and Cadereyta, reinforcing the installations,” Nuevo Leon Government Secretary Javier Treviño said Sunday.
The police departments in San Pedro Garza, Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo Leon, and Garcia have all been reinforced, municipal officials said.
The northern states of Coahuila, Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon have been rocked by a wave of violence over the past few days as the Gulf cartel and “Los Zetas,” who were previously allies, turned on each other and began fighting for control of the area near the U.S. border.
The two criminal organizations have engaged in shootouts with each other and the army in several border cities in Tamaulipas, leaving more than 30 people dead in the past week.
Two municipal police officers were murdered Saturday in Ciudad Madero by unidentified individuals who disarmed them and then shot them in the head, the Tamaulipas Attorney General’s Office said.
The officers were approaching an automobile that had been reported stolen when several gunmen got out of the vehicle, ordered them to kneel in the street and shot them in the head, Ciudad Madero Metropolitan Police officer Lidia Perez said.
Officers Edgar Alexis San Roman and Juan Jesus Rivas were rushed to a hospital, where they were pronounced dead.
Perez survived because the gunmen kicked her and forced her to get under her patrol car.
Mexico’s most powerful drug trafficking organizations, according to experts, are the Sinaloa, Tijuana, Gulf, Juarez and Beltran Leyva cartels, and La Familia Michoacana.
The Gulf cartel was founded by Juan Nepomuceno Guerra in the 1970s and later led by Juan Garcia Abrego, who was arrested in 1996 and extradited to the United States.
Osiel Cardenas Guillen later became the Gulf cartel’s undisputed boss.
Cardenas was arrested in 2003, but he continued running the Gulf cartel, one of the most violent and powerful criminal organizations in Mexico, until his extradition to the United States four years later.
Los Zetas, a group of army special forces veterans and deserters who initially worked as hitmen for the Gulf organization, may now be operating as a cartel, some experts say.
Mexico has been plagued in recent years by drug-related violence blamed on powerful cartels.
Last year, according to the El Universal newspaper, was the deadliest in Mexico in the past decade, with 7,724 people killed in violent incidents attributed to organized crime groups.
So far this year, drug-related violence has claimed the lives of more than 1,400 people, the daily says.