Saturday, March 5, 2011
Saltillo under fire
The Governor of Coahuila, Jorge Torres Lopez, denies the state capitol of Saltillo is under curfew Friday night as the streets of the city lie deserted after a chaotic morning during which fierce gunbattles in the streets erupted between state police and army troops and marauding groups of gunmen, presumably Zetas, that left a total of 7 deaths.
Rumors that highways entering and exiting the city were blockaded by authorities were also denied by Torres Lopez.
Saltillo and its metropolitan area of approximately 750,000 residents, and most of Coahuila, has been an undisputed plaza of Los Zetas, which has allowed the city to enjoy a relative calm unlike the major city of Torreon to the west.
Torreon has seen a bloody beginning of the year as street gangs loyal to the rival Los Zetas and the Sinaloa cartels battle each other and the authorities throughout the Lagunera district. The violence in the Lagunera area has increased significantly since 2009. (The Comarca Lagunera is a tri city metropolitan area comprised of Gomez Palacio and Cd Lerdo in Durango and Torreon in Coahuila).
The precarious refuge Los Zetas enjoy in Saltillo was shattered last Sunday with the arrest of Antonio Mora Cortes “El Toto”, a mid level Zeta that Mexican authorities allege was the head of the San Luis Potosi plaza and controlled the cell responsible for the attack that killed the U.S. ICE agent Jaime Zapata.
The gunbattles that erupted on the streets of Saltillo began at about 9:40am along Venustiano Carranza Blvd when a group of gunmen traveling in a three pickup convoy were intercepted by a state police patrol. Confrontations then spread along the Luis Echeverria loop.
In the suburban municipality of Ramos Arispe a state police agent was executed by a group of gunmen.
In one confrontation at the intersection of Valdez Sanchez Blvd and Luis Echeverria loop an identified female civilian caught in the crossfire between authorities and gunmen was shot and killed.
There were reports by witness of grenade explosions being heard in at least one gunbattle, and unconfirmed reports mentioned a police installation in the northern area of the city suffered a grenade attack.
In all five gunmen were reported killed, in addition to the state police officer and the female civilian. Eight people were reported injured, including five policemen. Unconfirmed reports on social networking sites stated up to six civilians caught in the crossfire had been wounded.
The parts of the city affected by the street battles were the scene of chaos as civilians were caught in the exchanges of gunfire. Many vehicles were reported damaged but the casualties reported by authorities were miraculously light.
Multiple accidents caused during the pursuits of gunmen by the authorities were also reported. Multiple inquiries via Twitter were being transmitted in search of vehicles that had being taken at gunpoint from residents by fleeing gunmen.
Citizens were also reporting that the police were confiscating cameras and cell phones from people caught videotaping their operations. One television news crew was roughed up and detained but later released.
Many schools were sealed and their students isolated away from their classrooms into safer areas such as central hallways due to the high volume of gunfire and the risk of stray bullets. Most schools did not release their children until the normal end of the school day for their safety and that of their parents.
Authorities reported that the gunfire had ended by noon but sporadic, isolated gunshots were heard throughout the afternoon.
In a press conference Friday afternoon to address the violence that had occurred during the morning, Attorney General Jesus Torres Charles reported that the attacks against the police may have been linked to the capture of “El Toto” last Sunday, and also announced that after Friday the city must be on guard for further attacks.
“There will be no truce or rest for these criminals” said the Attorney General.
In the same news conference Saltillo’s mayor, Jerrico Abramo Masso, urged citizens to report any suspicious activity or movements to authorities.
Video of news crew harrasement.
No ay toque de queda en saltillo