By Alejandro Martínez-Cabrera
El Paso Times
Police investigate the scene where a Juarez police officer was killed Saturday morning. This is the eighth police officer murdered this month.
Another Juárez police agent was shot and killed this morning, bringing the number of officers slain this year to eight.
The attack occurred before 10 a.m. today near the intersection of Cartamo and Garambullo Streets, in Colonia Granjero, a spokesperson with the state prosecutor's office said.
Details remain unclear. A spokesperson with the municipal police department did not return calls to comment.
On Friday morning, two police agents were ambushed and gunned down, officials said. The two officers -- a man and woman -- were killed by a group of armed men when they headed into work, said Adrián Sánchez, a police spokesman.
Two police commanders were also killed earlier this month. On Wednesday, two other police officers were shot after finishing their shift, and another officer was killed earlier.
This week's killings follow Wednesday's discovery of about 10 banners, allegedly signed by members of the so-called New Juárez Cartel, in different parts of the city.
The messages, addressed to Juárez Police Chief Julián Leyzaola, threaten to kill a police agent every day.
Officer slayings increase: Juárez killings may point to surge in violence, experts say
The recent wave of police slayings in Juárez may signal increased bloodshed reminiscent of the early stages of the current safety crisis, experts said Friday.
Two police agents were ambushed and gunned down Friday morning, bringing to seven the number of officers killed so far this year, officials said.
The two officers -- a man and woman -- were killed by a group of armed men when they headed into work, said Adrián Sánchez, a police spokesman.
Their names have not been released.
Two police commanders also were killed earlier this month. On Wednesday, two other police officers were shot after finishing their shift, and another officer was killed earlier.
Friday's killings follow Wednesday's discovery of about 10 banners, allegedly signed by members of the so-called New Juárez Cartel, in different parts of the city.
The messages, addressed to Juárez Police Chief Julián Leyzaola, threaten to kill a police agent every day to force Leyzaola to resign.
Leyzaola dismissed the signs and said threats are not going to stop his efforts to fight criminals.
Sánchez said his agency had mounted an operation to find the officers' killers. He added that for now, police weren't linking Friday's slayings to the banners.
"We aren't linking them to anything," he said.
Hours after the slayings, Leyzaola met with Juárez Mayor Héctor "Teto" Murguía at city hall behind closed doors, a city spokesman said. Details of the meeting are unknown, but it is likely they discussed Friday's police casualties, the spokesman said.
A police news release on Friday asked anyone with information on the attacks to contact the authorities.
"The police officers of Juárez continue to do their work, even when the cost is something as precious as their lives," it said. "Crime will end when citizens decide to end it by fighting it through their reports."
Juárez City Manager Héctor Arcelús said he thought the recent slayings were connected to the police department's recent work.
"It is definitely a reaction of organized crime. The mayor's instructions were to fight crime and we have. In no way will we discontinue our intent to do so," he said.
Arcelús said municipal authorities are discussing the safety of police officers, but he did not mention the adoption of any new security measures.
"We have identified several measures, but because of safety concerns, we're not revealing them," he said.
Police officers have told local media that they would feel safer if they could carry their 9mm handguns after work hours. Because of city guidelines, police officers must must return their handguns when their shifts end.
Arcelús said local authorities have discussed the measure but did not add any details. Since 2008, when a war broke out between the Juárez and Sinaloa drug cartels, more than 9,300 people have been killed in Juárez.
University of Texas at El Paso Professor Howard Campbell said the recent attacks on the municipal police bring back memories of the early days of 2008, when hit lists with the names of specific police officers began to appear throughout the city.
"Those threats were carried out, and these (slayings) are very similar," he said.
Campbell added that the attacks could be the beginning of a new surge in violence.
"Obviously this is an attack on Leyzaola, but I would guess it's also a struggle to control drug sales and other criminal enterprises like extortion rackets and the informal economy," he said. "I'm sure Leyzaola is going to fight back, and that's the ominous part. This thing could explode again."
Scott Stewart, vice president of tactical intelligence at a geopolitical analysis company, Stratfor, agreed that the slayings could lead to a rebound in violence, but that it would probably be smaller in dimension and would eventually lead to a downturn.
"I seriously don't think the remnants of the VCF (Vicente Carrillo Fuentes cartel) have the power they had in '08," he said.
"They are significantly weaker and will continue to be weakened as law enforcement reacts to these killings."
In a recent report, Stratfor attributed a recent decrease in violence in Juárez to what seems to be the Sinaloa cartel's consolidation of power in the region and dominance over its rival Juárez cartel.
Stewart said the slayings showed that the New Juárez Cartel -- which he said is likely to be a "rebranding" of the Juárez cartel after heavy losses to its leadership last year -- is still fighting to hold on to its territory.
"The VCF is trying desperately to hold on to their plaza," he said. "Sinaloa is basically like a boa constrictor choking them out."
But Campbell thought Stratfor overestimated the Sinaloa cartel's grip on the region and said it was too early to say Juárez was on its road to recovery.
"Summertime is usually the most violent time in the city. We also have to consider the effects of the (coming Mexican presidential) elections and the fact that the Sinaloa cartel doesn't seem to be supreme," Campbell said.
"This war seems to continue and the potential is there for things to get back as they were."