19 slain at Mexico rehab clinic, 16 in second city
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) -- At least 30 gunmen burst into a drug rehabilitation center in a Mexican border state capital and opened fire, killing 19 men and wounding four people, police said. Gunmen also killed 16 people in another drug-plagued...
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) -- At least 30 gunmen burst into a drug rehabilitation center in a Mexican border state capital and opened fire, killing 19 men and wounding four people, police said. Gunmen also killed 16 people in another drug-plagued northern city.
The killings marked one of the bloodiest weeks ever in Mexico and came just weeks after authorities discovered 55 bodies in an abandoned silver mine, presumably victims of the country's drug violence.
The bullet-riddled bodies of 14 men and two women were found Friday in different parts of Ciudad Madero, a city in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, where violence has surged this year amid a turf battle between the Gulf cartel and its former ally, the Zetas gang of hit men. Authorities earlier said 20 were killed but reduced that to 16.
Police had no information on suspects.
It was the deadliest day in Tamaulipas drug violence since 18 gunmen were killed during a series of coordinated attacks on soldiers in April.
Another round of killings occurred late Thursday at the Faith and Life center in Chihuahua city, about 210 miles (350 kilometers) south of Ciudad Juarez and the border with El Paso, Texas, state police spokesman Fidel Banuelos said.
On Wednesday, unidentified assailants killed one man and wounded another at a rehab center in Ciudad Juarez, which has become one of the world's most deadly cities because of drug violence.
More than 60 people have died in mass shootings at rehab clinics in a little less than two years. Police have said two of Mexico's six major drug cartels are exploiting the centers to recruit hit men and drug smugglers, often threatening to kill those who don't cooperate. Others are killed for failing to pay for drugs or betraying a dealer.
The men at the Faith and Life center were roused out of bed shortly before 11 p.m. and placed face-down along a hallway, the center's director, Cristian Rey Ramirez, told The Associated Press.
Ramirez was alerted to the attack by a telephone call from the center's pastor.
"He tells me, 'You know what, come here because they just killed everyone,' Rey said. "There was no warning."
The attackers left messages accusing the victims of being criminals, Banuelos said.
Four other people were hospitalized, two in critical condition and two in serious condition, officials said.
Most of the victims ranged in age from 30 to 40, with some older, and included a blind man, said the Rev. Rene Castillo, a minister who gives weekly sermons at the center, which opened 11 years ago.
"Everyone is so scared now," he said. Violence is "all everyone talks about, especially with all the threats that have been made," he said.
It was the first such attack on the center, although two men and a woman were kidnapped there in April 2008 while attending a memorial service, Banuelos said.
The three-story, baby-blue concrete building houses addicts for 90 days, although some of those attacked had been there for up to two years, Castillo said.
Among the victims was Jose Luis Zamarron Barraza, a heroin addict who arrived home a year ago from the U.S., said a relative who declined to give her name out of fear. She did not know Zamarron's age.
He entered the center a year ago, she said.
"The only crime he committed was to use drugs and want to get clean," she said. "He was really happy because he was about to leave. ... He almost made it."
President Felipe Calderon, whose war with drug cartels has seen nearly 23,000 people killed since he took office in late 2006, issued a statement condemning the shootings.
"They are outrageous acts that reinforce the conviction of the need to fight criminal groups who carry out such barbaric acts with full legal force," he said.
The federal government promised in February to invest $7.7 million in rehab centers and related programs in Ciudad Juarez. But plans for Mexico's first government-run drug rehab center have stalled for unknown reasons.
The government did open two small offices in Ciudad Juarez two months ago that provide counseling and prevention services.
Chihuahua state Health Secretary Octavio Martinez Perez said the Faith and Life center had a license and regularly met all state requirements.
"It is regrettable and tragic," he said.
In other presumably drug-related violence, authorities discovered three bodies, one of which had been decapitated, in the Pacific Coast state of Guerrero on Thursday and Friday.
One of the bodies was found Friday in the town of Iguala accompanied by a note. Police did not reveal what it said.
A second body was found Thursday in the town of Tecoanapa leaning against a cement post, its head placed between its knees, police said. Attached to that body was a message written on cardboard whose contents authorities declined to release.
The third body was found Thursday with signs of torture in Taxco, a colonial-era tourist town known for its silver jewelry. In late May, authorities discovered a mass grave in an abandoned silver mine on the outskirts of Taxco that had become a dumping ground for apparent victims of Mexico's drug violence. Authorities found 55 bodies before ending their search last weekend.
Also in Guerrero, two gunmen died Thursday after attacking a military convoy while two brothers, including a 16-year-old boy, died Friday during an ambush. No further details were available.