Eight people were killed in recent hours in this northern Mexican industrial city in attacks attributed to organized crime, officials said.
Five people between the ages of 20 and 30 were shot and killed early Tuesday in downtown Monterrey, capital of the violence-racked state of Nuevo Leon, according to a report from the State Investigations Agency.
A group of gunmen lined their victims up against a wall at the corner of two streets and fired at them with AR-15 assault rifles before finishing them off with a 9 mm pistol, the report added.
Experts from the state Attorney General’s Office gathered more than 20 spent .223-caliber shell casings and a spent 9 mm shell casing at the scene.
In a separate incident attributed to organized crime, a woman of about 35 and a male teenager were killed by gunmen on Monterrey’s north side outside a residence. A Holy Death altar was found on one side of the home.
And a 25-year-old woman also was found dead Tuesday morning of a gunshot wound near a Holy Death altar in northwestern Monterrey.
Holy Death is a sect with roughly 2 million followers in Mexico, including some drug traffickers and criminals who pray and make offerings to the “White Girl,” a skeletal image dressed in women’s clothing.
Monterrey, which is home to many of Mexico’s industrial giants, had long seemed immune to the drug war but since early 2010 has been the scene of a brutal war for control of smuggling routes to the United States pitting the Gulf cartel against former allies Los Zetas.
Almost 2,000 people have died violently in Nuevo Leon this year amid the turf battle and clashes between members of those crime syndicates and the security forces.
Elsewhere, the director of the prison in the northern state capital of Saltillo, Serafin Peña Santos, was shot and killed while traveling by car in the city, the Coahuila state Attorney General’s Office said.
Reports of gunshots in Saltillo’s Jardines del Valle neighborhood were received at approximately 1:30 p.m. (Tuesday),” the state AG’s office said in a statement, adding that police were immediately dispatched to the scene.
Authorities found the prison director dead inside his vehicle, which was discovered just a few meters from a high school, and collected 10 spent shell casings at the scene.
Classes were suspended at the school and the students were sent home early.
Over the past year, the Coahuila cities of Saltillo and Torreon have seen an uptick in violent crime attributed to a turf battle between the Sinaloa and Los Zetas cartels.
Founded by deserters from an elite special forces unit, Los Zetas began as the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, but ended that relationship in March 2010 to go into business for themselves.
Hundreds have died in the ensuing turf battles between the aggressive upstarts and the established drug-trafficking organizations.
Also Tuesday, two bodyguards were killed in an attack on the public safety secretary of the northern Mexican town of Gran Morelos, the Chihuahua state government said.
Miguel Angel Gomez Carrera, his wife and the couple’s two young children were wounded in the assault, which took place in Chihuahua city, the state capital.
All four members of the family are listed in serious but stable condition at a hospital in the city, state Attorney General’s Office spokesman Carlos Gonzalez told Efe.
Gomez Carrera took over responsibility for public safety in Gran Morelos, a town of around 4,000 people, after the Nov. 21 arrest of predecessor Ramon Muñoz Cepeda, who was apprehended by army troops along with a reputed drug trafficker and several other suspects.
The town’s current mayor, Ricardo Solis Manriquez, was elected in July 2010, but did not take office until late last month due to injuries he received in a September 2010 attack.
Mexican federal authorities view municipal officials as particularly susceptible to being threatened or co-opted by the country’s powerful drug cartels.
Drug-related violence has resulted in nearly 50,000 deaths in Mexico since December 2006, when newly inaugurated President Felipe Calderon militarized the struggle against the cartels.