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Fifteen killed in Mexico drug shootout

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Latest update : 2008-04-26

At least 15 suspected criminals, some dressed as police officers, died in a gang shootout Saturday in Mexico's Pacific cost city of Tijuana. Eight wounded suspects were arrested.

Fifteen Mexican drug gang members were killed in a gun battle near the U.S. border on Saturday, their bodies soaked in blood in the road after one of the deadliest shootouts in Mexico's three-year-long narco-war.
 
Rival factions of the local Arellano Felix drug cartel in Tijuana on the Mexico-California border fought each other with rifles and machine guns in the early hours of the morning, police said.
 
Fourteen bodies lay in pools of blood, strewn along a road near assembly-for-export maquiladora plants on the city's eastern limits. The corpses were surrounded by hundreds of bullet casings and many of the victims' faces were destroyed.
 
A 15th body was found close by after the victim apparently tried to walk away before collapsing dead. Eight other men were wounded and taken to hospital.
 
"By the way this happened and the guns used, we believe the men are from the same cartel, the Arellano Felix gang," said a senior police officer in Tijuana who declined to be named.
 
Two of the dead are believed to be senior hitmen for the Arellano Felix cartel and were identified by the large gold rings on their fingers. The rings carried the icon of Saint Death, a ghoulish grim reaper figure that gangsters believe protects them, police said.
 
Officials also found police helmets and body armor that the two hitmen used. Six men were arrested but the remaining survivors escaped, the office said.
 
Police cordoned off all surrounding roads, forcing workers at a nearby maquiladora plant to walk through the crime scene to get to work. "Another shootout," said a woman who gave her name only as Lisa. "There are just too many, we are so afraid."
 

GUARDING THE WOUNDED

Heavily armed federal police patrolled across Tijuana following the gun fight. Soldiers and police guarded the city's main hospital where the wounded were being treated to prevent any attempt by drug gangs to pull them out.
 
A source close to the Tijuana mayor's office said local authorities had requested more troops for the city bordering San Diego, California, and that they could arrive this weekend.
 
President Felipe Calderon has sent thousands of troops to Tijuana and Baja California state since taking office in December 2006. Some 25,000 soldiers and federal police are deployed to fight cartels in drug hot spots across Mexico.
 
The army in Tijuana said it was on high alert for reprisals against soldiers and federal police following the shootout and the ensuing arrest. "The risk of attacks against our agents after an event like this is extremely high," said Lt. Col Julian Leyzaola, Tijuana's police chief.
 
The Arellano Felix gang was long the dominant drug-trafficking organization in Tijuana, smuggling drugs into California. Recently the group has been under attack from a rival gang from the Pacific state of Sinaloa, led by Mexico's most wanted man, Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman.
 
Some 190 people have been killed in Tijuana so far this year. In 2007, there were more than 2,500 drug killings across Mexico and there have been more than 900 this year.

Date created : 2008-04-26

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