Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua – Eleven people, including an 18-month-old girl, were killed in Ciudad Juarez, considered the most violent city in Mexico, the Chihuahua state Attorney General’s Office said.
Gunmen opened fire inside the Climas Guerrero store in Juarez Nuevo, a neighborhood in the southeast section of the border city, killing two men, a teenager and the toddler.
Javier Soto Nuñez, 40, Jorge Dario Ceballos, 20, and Aaron Varela Corral, 17, were pronounced dead at the scene.
Danna Nahomy Ceballos, age 18 months, was shot multiple times and died while being transported to a hospital.
Gunmen killed three men who were traveling through another neighborhood in southeast Juarez.
Two other men, meanwhile, were gunned down in Ciudad Moderna, a neighborhood in the southern section of the border city.
Police also announced that the bodies of two women were found at separate locations.
One of the bodies was found in central Juarez and the other in the city’s northeast section.
Ciudad Juarez, located across the border from El Paso, Texas, has been plagued by drug-related violence for years.
The murder rate took off in the border city of 1.5 million people in 2007, when more than 800 people were killed, then it more than doubled to 1,623 in 2008, according to press tallies, with the number of killings soaring to 2,635 last year.
Ciudad Juarez, with 191 homicides per 100,000 residents, was the most violent city in the world in 2009, registering a higher murder rate than San Pedro Sula, San Salvador, Caracas and Guatemala, two Mexican non-governmental organizations said in a recent report.
The death toll for this year currently stands at more than 600, including 16 people massacred on Jan. 31 while attending a birthday party in the Villas de Salvarcar neighborhood.
Over the weekend, seven minors and three young adults traveling in an SUV were murdered in the northern Mexican town of Pueblo Nuevo by gunmen, the Durango state Attorney General’s Office said.
The killings occurred on Sunday as the group was heading from the rural community of El Aval to Pueblo Nuevo, where they were going to collect education grants provided by a federal program.
A large group of gunmen ordered them to stop and opened fire when they refused, “even launching explosive devices at the vehicle,” the state AG’s office said in a statement.
The victims, who included four siblings from the same family, ranged in age from 8 to 21.
Durango state police and 10th Military Zone troops sealed off the area after the killings.
Checkpoints set up by drug traffickers are common in the area of Durango where the killings occurred, with gunmen inspecting, questioning and demanding identification documents from drivers, media outlets reported.
The Defense Secretariat, meanwhile, said five suspected drug cartel gunmen died in a clash with troops in the border state of Nuevo Leon.
The incident occurred Sunday at a motel in the Monterrey suburb of Santa Catarina.
The soldiers, assigned to the 7th Military Zone, were on patrol when they received an anonymous tip about the presence of gunmen at the motel. The troops came under fire when they reached the property.
“Five suspected criminals, two women and three men, died” in the shootout, the Defense Secretariat said.
One of the dead was a man – known only by the nickname “El Boxer” – who authorities linked to the killing last November of Garcia municipal police chief Brig. Gen. Arturo Esparza and four of his bodyguards, the secretariat said.
El Boxer also allegedly participated in an attack last week on Santa Catarina Public Safety Secretary Rene Castillo that left two of the official’s bodyguards dead and local police chief Eduardo Murrieta wounded.
Soldiers seized three rifles, two pistols, 18 ammunition clips, 536 rounds of ammunition, two fragmentation grenades, a vehicle, five radios and other gear after Sunday’s clash.
Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo Leon, is home to some of Mexico’s largest companies, including Cemex and Femsa.
Sunday’s violence coincided with a march in Monterrey by 10,000 people to demand the return of “peace and tranquility” to the region.
Violence has intensified in Nuevo Leon and neighboring Tamaulipas state since the appearance last month in Monterrey of giant banners heralding an alliance of the Gulf, Sinaloa and La Familia drug cartels against Los Zetas, a band of Mexican special forces deserters turned hired guns.
After several years as the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, Los Zetas went into the drug business on their own account and now control several lucrative territories.
The cartels arrayed against Los Zetas blame the group’s involvement in kidnapping, armed robbery and extortion for discrediting “true drug traffickers” in the eyes of ordinary Mexicans inclined to tolerate the illicit trade as long as the gangs stuck to their own unwritten rule against harming innocents.
Battles among drug cartels and the security forces’ struggle against the gangs have claimed nearly 19,000 lives in Mexico since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon took office.
Vowing to crush the cartels, Calderon has deployed 50,000 soldiers and 20,000 Federal Police officers in the country’s most crime-plagued areas, yet the pace of drug-related killings has only accelerated, surging from 2,700 people in 2007 to 7,724 fatalities last year.
The 2010 death toll, according to a tally kept by the Mexico City daily El Universal, has already topped 2,200.