Four U.S. citizens were shot to death in separate attacks in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexican authorities said Monday.
Chihuahua state prosecutors’ spokesman Arturo Sandoval said Edgar Lopez, 35, of El Paso, Texas, was killed Sunday along with two Mexican men when gunmen opened fire on a group standing outside a house.
On Saturday, a 26-year-old U.S. woman and an American boy were slain shortly after crossing an international bridge from El Paso. Giovanna Herrera and Luis Araiza, 15, were shot to death along with a Mexican man traveling with them just after 11 a.m., Sandoval said.
Sandoval said authorities also identified a 24-year-old woman killed Friday inside a tortilla shop as Lorena Izaguirre, a U.S. citizen and El Paso resident. A Mexican man was also found dead in the store.
Sandoval did not provide any information about possible motive in any of the slayings.
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley confirmed three of the killings but did not have any information about Izaguirre. He said officials had been in touch with the victims’ families but offered no other details.
Ciudad Juarez has become one of the world’s deadliest cities amid a turf war between the Sinaloa and Juarez drug cartels. More than 2,000 people have been killed this year in the city, which is across the border from El Paso.
Also Monday, federal police said they arrested a U.S. man accused of being a member of the Aztecas gang, whose members work as hitmen for the Juarez cartel and operate on both sides of the border. Angel Martinez, 24, was arrested Saturday in Ciudad Juarez when he was traveling with another gang member, the department said.
Elsewhere, three city police officers were gunned down early Monday in a drive-by shooting as they patrolled the heart of Acapulco’s upscale tourist district, authorities said.
Another officer was wounded, according to a statement from the Public Safety Department in southern Guerrero state, where Acapulco is located.
The officers were patrolling the Puerto Marques area around 1 a.m. when they were ambushed by suspects shooting assault rifles from inside a car, police said.
Violence continues to escalate in the Pacific resort city, days after Mayor Jose Luis Avila Sanchez warned people to stay indoors after dark. Ten other people were killed between Sunday and Monday around the area. Authorities also were trying to determine whether a burned corpse found in a car was the body of a Canadian businessman who disappeared last week.
Meanwhile, the remains of seven people were found Sunday in a mass grave in Nogales, on the Arizona border. Mayor Jose Angel Hernandez said a family walking near the site noticed what appeared to be part of a body sticking up in a riverbed. Officers recovered six bodies and a severed head in the grave. A seventh headless body was found nearby.
In the border city of Tijuana, state police seized more than 14 tons of marijuana in two vehicles at a house in the same neighborhood where gunmen killed 13 people at a drug rehab center 10 days ago.
50 bullets hit car with Texas plates in Juárez
By Daniel Borunda
El Paso Times
Three people riding in a BMW with Texas license plates were killed in a shooting during the weekend in Juárez.
Chihuahua state police identified the victims as Guillermo Araiza Hidalgo, 23, Luis Carlos Araiza Hidalgo, 15, and Giovanna Herrera, 26.
A spokesman for the Chihuahua attorney general’s office on Sunday did not have information on whether any of the victims were El Paso residents or U.S. citizens.
Police said shooters fired 50 rounds from 9 mm and .223-caliber weapons, peppering the black 2001 BMW X5 with bullets during an assault late Saturday morning on the Juárez-Porvenir road. The vehicle was being driven by Guillermo Araiza. All three died at the scene.
Mexican Police Find 18 Bodies in Mass Grave
(AP) In another grisly turn in Mexico’s drug war, police have recovered 18 bodies from a mass grave announced in a YouTube posting – a video saying the victims were from a tourist group kidnapped in Acapulco a month ago.
Authorities said they would resume their search Thursday for more remains at the burial site in Tres Palos, a town just south of the Pacific resort city.
Police did not yet know if the bodies found were from the 20 men abducted at gunpoint Sept. 30 while visiting Acapulco from neighboring Michoacan state, Fernando Monreal, investigative police chief for Guerrero state, said Wednesday night.
Officers began digging at the site early Wednesday after receiving an anonymous phone call alerting them to two bodies dumped on an empty lot.
Hours earlier, a video appeared on Youtube in which two men – their hands apparently tied behind their backs and answering questions from an unseen interrogator – say they killed “the Michoacanos” and buried them in the area.
The two bodies reported in the tip were found wearing the same clothes as the pair seen in the video and were lying on top of the mass the grave.
A sign left between the two men read: “The people they killed are buried here.” It was signed by Acapulco’s Independent Cartel, or CIDA – a little known drug gang that has been claiming responsibility for killings in the area over the last two months.
Monreal said authorities had not confirmed the identities of the bodies dumped on top of the grave.
In the video, the two men say they killed the “Michoacanos” in an act of revenge against La Familia, a powerful drug cartel based in Michoacan state.
The families of the 20 missing men, many of them related to each other, have said they were mechanics in the state capital of Morelia who each year saved up money to take a vacation together. Among those abducted was the 17-year-old son of one of the mechanics.
Guerrero state investigators say they corroborated that the men worked as mechanics and had no criminal records. Investigators also say they could find no evidence linking the men to any gang and have speculated the group may have been targeted by mistake.
Hundreds of the men’s relatives and friends have twice marched in Morelia to demand federal authorities investigate the case.
On Sunday, about 1,000 people marched to urge authorities to keep searching for their loved ones.
“To the people who have them, we ask them to have mercy on them, on us,” Katy Rodriguez, a niece of seven of the missing men, said in a message sent to the captors through the media.
The kidnapping was one of the biggest blows yet to Acapulco, which has seen an increase in drug-gang shootouts, beheadings and kidnappings. Even Acapulco Mayor Jose Luis Avila Sanchez recently urged residents to stay indoors after nightfall, an extraordinary pronouncement in a city where the economy is built on nightclubs, bars and restaurants.
Mass killings have become more frequent amid raging, drug-fueled violence in Mexico. In the most horrifying attack, 72 migrants were massacred in northern Mexico near the border city of Matamoros in August, apparently because they refused to work for the Zetas drug gang.
Videos like the new posting on YouTube have become a new dimension of terror to Mexico’s bloody drug war. Cartels are increasingly releasing video of kidnapped people admitting at gunpoint to crimes ranging from extortion to murder. It is often impossible to determine the veracity of confessions given under duress.
In the boldest case, a video emerged less than two weeks ago showing the kidnapped brother of Patricia Gonzalez, the former attorney general of northern Chihuahua state. In the video, the brother, Mario Gonzalez, says his sister protected a street gang tied to the Juarez cartel and was behind several murders.
Gonzalez, who had been kidnapped days earlier, made the statement while sitting handcuffed in a chair surrounded by five masked men pointing guns at him. His whereabouts remain unknown.
Patricia Gonzalez denied any links to drug traffickers and said she is sure her brother spoke out of fear.
Another video made by drug traffickers and released in July led to the arrest of a prison warden who allegedly allowed inmates allied with the Sinaloa cartel to temporarily leave the Gomez Palacio prison to murder rivals. The warden allegedly even lent the inmates guns and vehicles to carry out the killings.
The Zetas drug gang, a rival of the Sinaloa cartel, first drew attention to the prison scandal by kidnapping a local police officer and forcing him to describe the scheme on a video released on the Internet.
Gunbattle in Northern Mexico Kills 3 Bystanders
(AP) Three bystanders died in the crossfire of a shootout between gunmen, police and soldiers in northern Mexico on Sunday.
The victims were a 14-year-old boy and two women aged 18 and 47, according to a statement by the prosecutors’ office in northern Coahuila state.
The statement said gunmen traveling in two vehicles opened fire on a convoy of federal police and soldiers in the city of Saltillo, Coahuila. The officers and soldiers returned fire.
It was not clear who fired the shots that killed the bystanders, but the state attorney general’s office said it was investigating and expressed condolences to the victims’ families.
“They are civilians who unfortunately died in the exchange of gunfire,” it said, describing a running series of confrontations between police and assailants who allegedly fired shots into the air to clear bystanders from their path at one point.
Mexico’s army, which has taken a leading role in combating drug gangs, has come under criticism for alleged indiscriminate use of force and firing on civilians.
Three gunmen also died Sunday in a separate shootout in another Coahuila city, Torreon.
Coahuila has been the scene of bloody turf battles between the Sinaloa cartel and the Zetas drug gang.
In the border city of Ciudad Juarez, meanwhile, the death toll from a birthday party massacre late Friday rose to 14 after an 18-year-old male died of his wounds.
Nineteen people were wounded in the attack on two private homes where about four dozen partygoers had gathered for a teen’s birthday.
The dead identified so far were 13 to 32 years old, and the majority of the victims were high school students, a survivor said.
While investigators said they have not yet identified the perpetrators or a motive, police found 70 bullet casings from assault weapons typically used by drug gangs at the scene of the shootings. Cartel violence has killed more than 2,000 people so far this year in the city across from El Paso, Texas.
Drug gangs have increasingly attacked private parties that they believe members of rival gangs might be attending; other innocent partygoers are often killed in such attacks.
On Sunday, prosecutors in northern Chihuahua state, where Ciudad Juarez is located, said they were searching for a man known only by his nickname, “The Mouse,” who was apparently the target of the gunmen.
The man was reportedly wounded in the Friday shooting, but has disappeared. Investigators said they believe he can shed light on who was trying to kill him.
Memorial services were held Sunday for some of the victims of Friday’s attack, and prosecutors said that guards had been provided to protect those services.
Friday’s attack recalled a similar massacre in Ciudad Juarez in January, when gunmen killed 15 people at a house party.