E-mail warns of bloody weekend in Mexican border city
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) -- The streets of Ciudad Juarez are empty after police became aware of an e-mail warning that this weekend will be "the bloodiest" in the Mexican border city.
Ciudad Juarez police have been given assault rifles and instructed not to patrol the streets alone.
The e-mail says that gunmen will open fire at malls, restaurants, nightclubs and other public places and that there will be "killings all over the city."
Ciudad Juarez Police Chief Roberto Orduna says the threats must be taken seriously and sought to reassure residents in a news release Thursday, saying police will be more vigilant.
Officials say that more than 200 people have been killed in Ciudad Juarez, a city of 1.3 million people across from El Paso, Texas, as drug cartels fight for territory.
On Friday, police found the bodies of five men dumped in blankets in front of a church.
Nationally, homicides related to organized crime jumped 47 percent in 2008, Mexico's attorney general said Friday in a rare confirmation of how bad violence has become.
- 4 'executed' bodies found in Baja California
- 2 top Mexican police officials killed in 2 days
- Mexico's federal police chief slain
Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora told Radio Formula that 1,378 people have been killed this year, compared with 940 in the same period last year.
The statistic reflects what many in Mexico already knew: Drug-related killings have soared in recent months.
The Mexican government has been reluctant to release homicide statistics, leaving the public to rely on informal tallies by the media.
Medina Mora broke that silence, saying 4,152 people have been killed since President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and declared war on drug cartels that controlled entire regions of Mexico. About 450 of the victims were police, soldiers, prosecutors or investigators.
Medina Mora said many of the recent killings have been concentrated along the U.S. border, but homicides in the central part of the nation have subsided.
The government says the violence reflects drug gangs' desperation amid the nationwide crackdown, carried out by more than 20,000 soldiers and federal police.
"Evidently, when they are cornered and weakened, they have to respond with violence," Medina Mora said.
Analysts say that recent arrests have created a power vacuum and that gangs are battling for valuable drug routes and territory.