February 18, 2011 in Nation/World

Three arrested in shootings in Mexico City outskirts

Attacks killed 20, stoked fears war coming to capital
Gloria Perez Associated Press
Zetas blamed

in agent’s death

Gunmen from Mexico’s ruthless Zetas drug gang carried out a highway ambush that killed one U.S. federal agent and wounded another this week, a Texas congressman said Thursday.

Michael McCaul said Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Jaime Zapata, 32, was killed by members of the Zeta cartel after a group of 10 to 15 armed men in two vehicles forced Zapata’s Chevy Suburban off a highway in San Luis Potosi state on Tuesday afternoon. ICE Agent Victor Avila was shot twice in the leg.

Also Thursday, the U.S. government has barred its employees from traveling in San Luis Potosi state.

The consulate also says U.S. citizens should “maintain a heightened sense of alert” while traveling in four central Mexico states surrounding San Luis Potosi.

TOLUCA, Mexico – A suspected cartel member was arrested Thursday in three shootings that killed 20 people on the outskirts of Mexico City, attacks stoking fears that a once-distant drug war is increasingly encroaching on the capital.

Elsewhere in Mexico, six human heads were dumped outside a police station in the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz, while an 11-year-old boy and his father were killed in an ambush on their car in the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez.

Juan Carlos Vasconcelos, 24, is suspected of leading a team of hit men for La Familia cartel, said Alfredo Castillo, attorney general of Mexico state, which borders the capital. He was arrested along with two alleged accomplices.

Castillo said Vasconcelos was behind three shootings in two sprawling, gritty neighborhoods on the outskirts of Mexico City. The first left five people dead on Jan. 8. Another killed eight people Jan. 16 and the third left seven dead Feb. 13.

Masked police paraded Vasconcelos shirtless before television cameras, showing his many tattoos. Police said he confessed to the shootings, but did not offer further evidence against him.

Castillo says La Familia has been trying to expand into Mexico City from its stronghold in the Pacific coast state of Michoacan. The capital has been largely spared from the massacres, beheadings and other cartel-style violence gripping some parts of Mexico.

In Veracruz, the six severed heads were dumped in front of the police station in the town of Moralillo, state deputy attorney general Said Marin said. Two of those killed were believed to have have been among a group of police officers who disappeared two days ago in another town.

Marin blamed the beheadings on drug gang battles. Veracruz is one of several eastern Mexican states where the Gulf and Zetas cartels are fighting for control.

In northern Mexico, meanwhile, an 11-year-old boy and his father were killed when gunmen ambushed their car in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, state prosecutors’ spokesman Arturo Sandoval said Thursday.

The gunmen first opened fire on the car, then set in on fire. The boy’s body was found inside the car while his father died on the pavement.

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