Fri, Jan 01, 2010 - Page 7 News List

Killings point to fresh turf war after drug lord’s death


The bound, beaten bodies of two men were found hanging by their necks from a highway overpass in northern Mexico on Wednesday, along with a handwritten message from a drug cartel.

The men’s hands were tied behind their backs, and shell casings at the scene in Los Mochis suggested the killers fired at the victims as they were hanging by their necks, Sinaloa state prosecutors spokesman Martin Gastelum said. The cause of death was still under investigation.

Nearby, a message written on a piece of cardboard said in part that “this territory already has an owner.”

The message appeared to be from the Beltran Leyva drug cartel, whose main leader, Arturo Beltran Leyva, died in a gunbattle with Mexican marines on Dec. 16.

The message suggested his death may have unleashed a turf battle for control of areas controlled by his gang.

Sinaloa is considered the home base of some of the most powerful crime lords in Mexico, a nation that has seen drug-related violence kill more than 15,000 people since Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched a crackdown on cartels in late 2006.

In the border city of Ciudad Juarez, authorities said 12 people including a three-year-old child were slain in shootings on Wednesday.

Chihuahua state attorney general’s spokesman Vladimir Tuexi said gunmen killed the little girl and a man as they rode in a pickup truck. A woman with them was wounded.

At another location, police found the bodies of four men and a woman inside a pickup truck abandoned on a dirt road on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez, Tuexi said.

Another five people were killed in other parts of the city, authorities said.

Also on Wednesday, security forces in Ciudad Juarez arrested a kidnapping suspect after a shootout that closed a bridge to El Paso, Texas, for about two hours.

Chihuahua state prosecutors spokesman Arturo Sandoval said shots were fired on Monday night as the suspect tried to flee over the Zaragoza bridge to El Paso. No injuries were reported.

Sandoval said the man was suspected in the attempted abduction of a 15-year-old girl.

About 2,500 people have been murdered in Ciudad Juarez this year, making it Mexico’s deadliest.

Elsewhere in Mexico, gunmen attacked a car dealership and an adjacent hospital in the border city of Tijuana late on Tuesday, forcing the evacuation of some patients. Baja California state prosecutors said no one was hurt.

The attackers doused about 10 cars at the dealership with gasoline and set them alight. Cartels commonly extort “protection” fees from businesses, which are sometimes firebombed if their owners refuse to pay.

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