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Escalating drug violence leaves 30 dead in Juarez

Cartels may be desperate to extort money, some say

Alfredo Corchado Dallas Morning News

MEXICO CITY – A rash of multiple slayings rocked the border region of Ciudad Juarez this week, killing at least 30 people in what analysts describe as the late stages of a battle between drug cartels vying for lucrative distribution routes into Texas.

The latest killings include the massacre of 10 people late Tuesday at a treatment center for addicts in Zaragoza, east of Juarez, the second mass killing at a rehab center this month.

Authorities announced late Wednesday that 10 treatment centers would be closed in response to the violence.

“We’d like to think this will soon be over, but this is too important of a transit point, so it’s likely the killings will continue for a while.” said Alfredo Quijano, editor of Norte de Ciudad Juarez newspaper and a close observer of the ongoing turf war in the Juarez area.

He described the latest killings as the attempted “extermination” of the long-established Juarez cartel by the rival Sinaloa cartel.

Over the weekend, a banner purportedly signed by the Sinaloa cartel was found near the community of Praxidis Guerrero, southeast of Juarez, warning residents to remain inside and issuing an ultimatum to rival cartel members to leave the area within 24 hours. Authorities promptly suspended school classes and ordered businesses to close. The rash of killings followed.

Late Tuesday night, as people across the country celebrated Mexican Independence Day, at least nine gunmen burst into a rehab center in the town of Zaragoza, east of Ciudad Juarez, and killed nine men and one woman, including a doctor.

Zaragoza, located in the eastern region of Ciudad Juarez known as El Valle, or the Valley, has become the focal point of intense turf battles between the Sinaloa and Juarez cartel.

On Sept. 2, gunmen lined up patients against a wall at another rehabilitation center in Ciudad Juarez and sprayed them with bullets, killing 18. Authorities have said that such centers have served as recruitment and operation centers for the cartels.

In recent days, the targets of violence also have included five people at a car wash and five more at a bar called CocoBongo. Gunmen also opened fire in a hardware store, killing five people, including the owner, and at a funeral home, killing the director, later returning to burn the funeral home. Two more people, a federal agent and a civilian, were killed Wednesday afternoon in downtown Juarez.

The killings of business owners may be a sign of desperation by cartel members as they try and fail to extort money to finance their operations and make up for seizures of cash and drugs in El Paso, analysts and law enforcement officials say.

On Wednesday, at least seven more “narco” banners went up throughout the state of Chihuahua, promising retaliation in the hours to come from La Linea, hit men associated with the Juarez cartel.

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