By Armando V. Durazo and Aileen B. Flores
El Paso Times
Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua - The ambush Friday in Juárez in which eight people were killed -- including six federal agents and a police officer -- may signal a new wave of intimidation against authorities, officials and experts said Saturday.
The attack, carried out in broad daylight by a group of hit men, solidified the resolve of Mexican federal police to fight back even though it was one of the deadliest attacks on authorities in the city since President Felipe Calderón launched the war on drug cartels.
Juárez officials said that the ambush will not deter them and that they will not be intimidated by the calculated and ruthless attack.
"They want to intimidate us. But now we are going to double our efforts to fight them," said José Salinas, spokesman for the federal police in Mexico City.
As a result of the ambush, he said, a new strategy will be used to "avoid similar ambushes."
"We will fight them," he said.
He did not elaborate on the new strategy.
Salinas said the attack on the agents was an act of desperation because authorities are winning the overall war. He also said the contingent of about 5,000 federal police agents will remain in the city indefinitely and will continue to pressure the criminals.
The agents were gunned down when they stopped to assist a vendor who had flagged them down about noon Friday. When they stopped, a group of gunmen arrived and opened fire with AK-47s, high-powered rifles and handguns. The agents tried to repel the attackers, but fell victim in the shootout.
Officials said more than 300 shots were fired.
No arrests have been made, but police said they found a sign scribbled on a wall in which La Linea, the Juárez drug cartel, takes responsibility for the slayings and warns of further attacks.
The Juárez drug cartel has been entangled in a violent and vicious war with the Sinaloa drug cartel, which is trying to muscle in to take over the lucrative drug corridor into the United States.
Since the drug war began in 2008, nearly 5,000 people have been killed in Juárez alone. More than 20,000 have been slain nationwide. In Juárez, several police officers and at least one commander have been killed in ambushes.
Friday's was the worst.
"An attack on federal police is a serious attack," said Dick Schwein, a retired FBI special agent in charge in El Paso.
"It's an attack on government agents. But who did it?" he asked. "We don't know it was a cartel shooting."
In response to the attack, Juárez Mayor José Reyes Ferriz said police will be more cautious and will increase the number of officers and agents working together to protect themselves.
He, too, said the attack will not stop officers and agents from doing their jobs.
Saturday, the agents killed in the attack were honored in a memorial in which they were remembered for their commitment to the agency.
The federal public safety secretary, Genaro García Luna, described the fallen agents as "heroes who gave their lives for an ideal: to build a better country for everyone, for our children, our families and the residents of Juárez."
Authorities on Friday speculated that the ambush was in retaliation for Thursday's arrests of several people on drug and weapons charges.
The Juárez ambush was not the only attack on authorities in Mexico.
Saturday, in the Michoacan state capital of Morelia, gunmen armed with assault rifles and grenades attacked a convoy carrying the top security official of Michoacan, killing four and wounding 10.
Michoacan Public Safety Secretary Minerva Bautista was among the wounded but was recovering from non-life-threatening injuries, according to the state attorney general's office. She was traveling in a bullet-resistant sport utility vehicle.
State Attorney General Jesus Montejano told the local Milenio television station that the attackers used assault rifles, grenades, a grenade launcher and a powerful .50-caliber sniper rifle whose rounds are capable of penetrating bullet-resistant materials.