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Mexico gunmen kill youths, take hostages By Cyntia Barrera Diaz and Miguel Gutierrez
Sun Jul 13, 5:29 PM ET
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Gunmen killed eight youths and a police chief and took dozens of restaurant patrons hostage for hours in two attacks in the drug gang-ridden state of Sinaloa, officials said on Sunday.
A group of hitmen sprayed four cars with bullets on a busy street in the city of Guamuchil in the early hours of Sunday, killing five young men and three female minors, a police source told Reuters.
In an earlier attack on Saturday, six other armed men caused pandemonium in the Pacific port city of Mazatlan by taking refuge in a shopping mall to escape security forces after they shot dead local police chief Sixto Escobedo when he resisted their attempt to kidnap him.
The attackers, dressed in police uniforms, took some 40 people hostage in a restaurant inside the mall while they negotiated their escape with police.
Drug gang killings in Mexico have soared to unprecedented levels, with some 1,700 people dead so far this year, as an army-led crackdown intensifies turf wars between rival gangs, whose hitmen are increasingly taking their battles public with daylight shootouts in busy streets.
President Felipe Calderon began his crackdown in late 2006 but opinion polls show many Mexicans worry he is failing to gain the upper hand on cartels, who have grown bold enough to post threats or recruiting advertisements on street banners.
Hitmen, who are known to sometimes don police gear, often dump bodies with torture marks or severed heads in public, and while the vast majority of the victims are drug gang members, a few dozen civilians have been killed in street battles.
It was unclear if Sunday's victims had links to drug gangs, who have been known to target rival gangs' family members.
"They killed three girls and five male youths," a local police source in Guamuchil said. Two others were injured.
Sinaloa state in northwestern Mexico is one of the areas most affected by drug violence and is home to Mexico's most-wanted drug lord, Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman.
Images on Mexican online media on Sunday, some captured by witnesses on their cell phones, showed frantic shoppers rushing away from the mall in Mazatlan and screaming employees in the food mall seeking shelter as gun shots ring out.
"The alleged delinquents took hostages at a restaurant for several hours. There was a negotiation in which they got a vehicle for their exit. They took (two) hostages with them, then released them and escaped," a spokesman for the Sinaloa government told Reuters on Sunday.
Local media said Escobedo, who was shot when he refused to get in the gunmen's car, was a local police commander.
More than 500 policemen, including a handful of senior commanders, have been killed since Calderon's crackdown began.
MEXICO CITY -- Gunmen shot 12 people to death in broad daylight near the center of Culiacan on Thursday, marking one of the more bloody and brazen recent attacks in the capital of a state beset by drug trafficking and violence.
The Sinaloa state prosecutor's office said armed men opened fire in an auto repair shop about 11:20 a.m., killing six people inside and three more just outside the doors. Fleeing in sport utility vehicles, the gunmen then traded fire with police officers who gave chase in a busy commercial area filled with stores and fast-food restaurants.
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The dead included three police officers. One was killed during the chase, and the other two died in a hospital.
The gunmen escaped. There were no immediate arrests.
Home to the so-called Sinaloa cartel headed by Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, the western state has a long history of drug violence. It has tallied more than 250 narcotics-related killings this year.
But even law enforcement officials were stunned by Thursday's audacious slayings.
"It wasn't in the wee hours. It wasn't on the outskirts of the city. It was in the full light of day in the center of Culiacan in a busy area," said Carlos Parras, spokesman for the prosecutor's office. "So it appears to us to be a very serious and historic event in that sense."
Parras said Sinaloa Gov. Jesus Aguilar Padilla canceled a trip to Europe to remain in Culiacan in the wake of the violence.
Police have not identified any of the nine bodies found at the auto repair shop. Nor would they give a motive for the slayings.
Mexico has been rocked this year by a wave of narcotics-related violence stemming in part from a turf war that has erupted between the Sinaloa cartel and rivals vying to control lucrative smuggling routes to the United States.
The bloodshed also has been ratcheted up by a massive offensive launched by President Felipe Calderon to crack down on the drug trade.
About 40,000 soldiers and 5,000 federal police officers have been deployed in the government effort, leading to some significant arrests and major seizures of narcotics and weapons.
Calderon asserts that the cartels have been hurt badly by the operation and that related violence -- including more than 2,000 killings this year nationwide -- is a sign that the drug gangs are desperate and disorganized.
Critics, however, say the massive deployment of troops has done little but push the violence from one area to another and note that several high-level law enforcement officials have been slain.
Traffickers in Sinaloa recently hung posters mocking the 3,600 troops there as "little lead soldiers."
Gunmen kill 16, including police chief in northern Mexico
Published: Thursday, July 10, 2008
MEXICO - Gunmen killed 16 people, including a police chief, in a spate of separate shootouts across Mexico, which is grappling with a spike in drug-related violence, local officials said Thursday.
Six of the murder victims in Culiacan were inside a car repair shop, while three others were killed outside, the state attorney's office said. Reporters said the three victims outside the shop were police officers who rushed to the scene of the gunfire.
At practically the same time and also in Culiacan, one police officer was shot and killed at the wheel of his pickup truck. Another officer was killed and his partner wounded while they were driving a police vehicle, the officials said.
In northern Chihuahua state, a state police chief was dragged out of his house and shot execution style by gunmen, the local attorney general's office said, adding that the murdered officer had escaped another attempt on his life two weeks ago.
Four more men were found shot to death in Guadalupe, Calvo and Juarez, the Chihuahua state officials said.
Some 450 police officers have been killed in Mexico since the launch of a massive federal anti-drugs operation in December 2006.
President Felipe Calderon has sent some 36,000 federal troops into key areas controlled by trafficking organizations, especially into Sinaloa, one of the state most hit by drug-related violence.
Last month the US government approved a 1.6-billion-dollar, three-year package of anti-drug assistance to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean known as the Merida Initiative, a large part of which is expected to strengthen Calderon's efforts.