21 killed in Mexican gang shootout near the US border
A MASSIVE gun battle between rival drug gangs near the Mexico-US border left 21 people dead and at least six others wounded in the early hours of yesterday.
The shootout occurred in a sparsely populated area about 12 miles from the Arizona border, near the city of Nogales, which is considered a prime corridor for both illegal immigration and drug smuggling.
More than 23,000 people have been killed by drug violence since late 2006, when President Felipe Calderon began deploying thousands of troops and police to drug hot spots.
Nine people were captured by police at the scene of the gun battle, of whom six had been wounded in the confrontation.
All of the victims were believed to be members of the rival gangs, which often fight for control of trafficking routes.
They sometimes steal 'shipments' of undocumented migrants from each other but seldom have they staged such massive gun battles over the illicit trade.
In a city on another part of the US border, gunmen killed an assistant attorney general for Chihuahua state and one of her bodyguards.
After being chased by armed assailants through the darkened streets of Ciudad Juarez, the vehicle carrying Sandra Salas Garcia and two bodyguards was riddled with bullets on Wednesday night.
Salas was responsible for evaluating the work of prosecutors and special investigations units in Chihuahua.
Drug-related violence has killed more than 4,300 people in recent years in Ciudad Juarez, which borders El Paso in Texas.
Meanwhile, a top drug gang enforcer said he ordered the killing of a US consulate worker because she helped provide visas to a rival gang in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, federal police said yesterday.
Jesus Ernesto Chavez, whose arrest was announced yesterday, led a band of hit men for a street gang tied to the Juarez cartel, said Ramon Pequeno, the head of anti-narcotics for the Federal Police.
Pequeno said Chavez ordered the March 13 attack that killed US consulate employee Lesley Enriquez and her husband as they drove towards a border crossing to the US.
Pequeno said Chavez told police that Enriquez was targeted because she helped provide visas to a rival gang.
Officials with the US Embassy in Mexico City and the State Department in Washington declined to comment.
Enriquez was four months pregnant when she and husband, Arthur H Redelfs, were killed. Their seven-month-old daughter was found crying hysterically in the back seat.