Photo released by Mexican police on June 11, 2010 shows the bodies of 19 people who were killed at a drug rehabilitation center in Chihuahua in northern Mexico. Gunmen stormed the drug rehabilitation center and opened fire, killing 19 people and wounding four others, local police said Friday.
Getting treatment for drug addiction has become a dangerous activity in the northern state of Chihuahua, where gunmen allied with drug cartels have staged numerous attacks on rehabilitation centers, including a particularly vicious massacre on Thursday night that left 19 men dead, the authorities said Friday.
At least two dozen assailants raided the Faith and Life Center in Chihuahua city just before 11 p.m., the authorities said. Chihuahua city is about 210 miles (350 kilometres) south of Ciudad Juarez and the border with El Paso, Texas.
Eyewitnesses said that they saw at least 30 gunmen arrive in several vehicles, kick down the front door and then open fire on patients before making their getaway.
After rousting the patients and ordering them to lie face down, the gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons, killing 19 people and wounding at least 4 others, according to the police and news accounts from the scene. The authorities recovered 184 bullet casings from AR-15 and 22 casing from AK-47 (cuernos de chivo).
Most of the victims ranged in age from 30 to 40, with some older, and included a blind man, said the Rev. Rene Castillo, a minister who gives weekly sermons at the centre, which opened 11 years ago.
“Everyone is so scared now,” he said. Violence is “all everyone talks about, especially with all the threats that have been made,” he said.
The three-story, baby-blue concrete building houses addicts for 90 days, although some of those attacked had been there for up to two years, Castillo said.
Among the victims was Jose Luis Zamarron Barraza, a heroin addict who arrived home a year ago from the U.S., said a relative who declined to give her name out of fear. She did not know Zamarron’s age.
He entered the centre a year ago, she said.
“The only crime he committed was to use drugs and want to get clean,” she said. “He was really happy because he was about to leave. ... He almost made it.”
The killers left behind a statement of their own. “This is what happens to pigs, rats, killers, kidnappers, rapists,” it said.
Authorities speculate this massacre might be related to fighting between rival street gangs and may have the backing of powerful drug cartels.
A day earlier unidentified assailants killed one man and wounded another at a rehab centre in Ciudad Juarez, which has become one of the world’s most deadly cities because of drug violence.
More than 60 people have died in mass shootings at rehab clinics in a little less than two years. Police have said two of Mexico’s six major drug cartels are exploiting the centres to recruit hit men and drug smugglers, often threatening to kill those who don’t co-operate. Others are killed for failing to pay for drugs or betraying a dealer
Such crimes, which are rarely solved, make clear that Mexico’s heavily armed drug gangs, which are the main suppliers of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamines to the United States, remain emboldened despite a three-year government offensive against them.
Mexico's President Felipe Calderon, in South Africa for the opening of the World Cup, condemned in a Friday statement the deadly Thursday night attack on the drug rehabilitation center in Chihuahua, the nation's most violent state.
"The events that occurred in the Fe y Vida Rehabilitation Centre are outrages and reinforce the conviction that we must fight criminal groups that carry out such acts with the full force of the law," Calderon said in the statement.
Calderon also expressed his condolences to the families of the dead and wished a swift recovery to the injured.
This was the second reported attack on the centre this year. According to Chihuhua newspapers, a man and a woman were kidnapped there in April and have not been seen since.
Two similar attacks killed 17 people in El Aliviane and Anexo de Vida, rehabilitation centers in Ciudad Juarez, on the Chihuahua border with US state Texas, which was the world's most violent city during 2009.
The killings marked one of the bloodiest weeks ever in Mexico and came just weeks after authorities discovered 55 bodies in an abandoned silver mine, presumably victims of the country’s drug violence.
The bullet-riddled bodies of 18 men and two women were found Friday in five different parts of Ciudad Madero, a city in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, where violence has surged this year amid a turf battle between the Gulf cartel and its former ally, the Zetas gang of hit men.
Police had no information on suspects.
It was the deadliest day in Tamaulipas drug violence since 18 gunmen died in clashes with soldiers in April.
The victims were identified as:
1.- Héctor Alejandro Miramonte, apodado, “Pin Pon”, de 23 años
2. Sergio Iguiarte Gasón, “El Sheko”, de 47 años.
3.- Luis Armando Rodríguez Beltrán y/o Gonzales Beltrán, “El Sagu”, de 39 años
4.- Jesús Martín Corrales Estrellas, “El Chuy”, de 45 años
5.- Enrique Castillo Delgado, “El Castillo”, de 32 años
6.-José Monserrat Trujillo Márquez, “El Monserrat”, de 21 años
7.- Gabriel Omar Pérez Guerra, “El Gaby”, de 24 años
8.- Jaime Daniel Holguín Aguirre, “El Sobas”, de 24 años aprox.
9.- Delio Moreno Derma, “El Anáhuac”, de 63 años
10.- Luis Carlos Maldonado Luna, “El Borreguita”, de 36 años.
11.- Edgar Manuel Padilla Gómez, de 16 años
12.- José Luis Zamarrón Barraza y/o Barraza Zamarrón, “El Cabal”, de 40 años
13.- José Guadalupe El Barón”, cuya edad no se ha determinado
14.- Valentín López Grajeda, “El Gato”, de 34 años
15.-Luis Fernando Flores García, “Fernando”, de 49 años
16.- Edgar Rubén Domínguez Bolaños, de 34 años
17.- Marco Antonio Hernández Terraza, “El Toño”, de 23 años
18.- Jesús Manuel Padilla Gómez, “El Spit”, de 45 años
19.- Mercedes Arévalo Linares, “Mercedes”, de 50 años.