Friday, May 7, 2010

Drug-Related Violence Claims 17 in Mexico


Homicide in Ciudad Juarez.

At least 17 people were killed in drug-related violence in northern and southern Mexico, officials said.

Attacks and a shootout between gunmen and army troops left at least 10 people dead in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas.

Soldiers engaged gunmen in a shootout Wednesday afternoon in Rio Bravo, a city on the border with Texas, killing three of the armed civilians, the Tamaulipas state information office, known as the CIO, said.

Seven other people died in separate incidents, including one in Ciudad Victoria, the capital of Tamaulipas, one in Camargo, one in Valle Hermoso, two in Nuevo Laredo and two others in the city of Miguel Aleman.

The turf war between rival gangs left 17 people dead in the border state in the first five days of May, while 39 people were murdered in April.

Tamaulipas, which is located on the Gulf of Mexico, has been rocked in recent months by a wave of violence blamed on a push by an alliance of cartels to liquidate the Los Zetas gang.

The Gulf cartel, long in control of organized crime activities in the state, has been battling Los Zetas, a group of former soldiers-turned-hitmen who served as the criminal organization’s armed wing.

The cartel and the Zetas reportedly split in late 2009.

The Sinaloa and La Familia drug cartels have joined the Gulf organization in its war on Los Zetas.

The cartels arrayed against Los Zetas blame the group’s involvement in kidnappings, armed robbery and extortion for discrediting “true drug traffickers” in the eyes of ordinary Mexicans willing to tolerate the illicit trade as long as the gangs stuck to their own unwritten rule against harming innocents.

Gunmen also carried out attacks in other parts of northern Mexico.

Two soccer coaches and the pregnant wife of one of the men were gunned down Wednesday in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico’s murder capital, during a match, the press reported.

The assailants opened fire indiscriminately, killing the two coaches and the woman, who was eight months’ pregnant, eyewitnesses said.

The woman was hit several times, including once in the abdomen, press reports said.

This was the third attack in less than a week on an amateur soccer match in Mexico.

Three spectators were gunned down Sunday in Ciudad Juarez, which is in Chihuahua state and just across the border from El Paso, Texas, while five people were shot to death on the same day on a soccer field in the Pacific port city of Acapulco.

Investigators have not determined whether the killings are connected or what the motive is, officials said.

Ciudad Juarez, where more than 5,000 people have been murdered since 2008, 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.

The death toll for this year currently stands at nearly 900, including 16 people massacred on Jan. 31 while attending a birthday party in the Villas de Salvarcar neighborhood.

The Juarez and Sinaloa cartels, backed by hitmen from local street gangs, have been fighting for control of the border city.

In the southern state of Guerrero, meanwhile, four people, including a boy, were gunned down at a gas station in Acapulco, state security officials said.

Gunmen in two SUVs committed the killings at the Mozimba station in the port city’s southern section, the Public Safety Secretariat said.

The gunmen opened fire on the occupants of a vehicle that was being fueled at the service station.

Army Cpl. Carlos Alberto Diego was gunned down at the same gas station just over two weeks ago.

A total of 327 drug-related killings, according to Public Safety Secretariat figures, have occurred this year in Guerrero.

The drug gang led by Edgar Valdez Villarreal has been battling the Beltran Leyva cartel for control of the state since January.

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