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23 slain in Mexico border town

Date

Alfredo Corchado

AT LEAST 23 people have been found dead - nine hanging from a bridge and 14 decapitated - across the Texas border in the city of Nuevo Laredo, authorities and residents said.

The latest massacres are part of a continuing battle between the paramilitary group known as the Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel, experts said. The violence appears to be part of a strategy by the Sinaloa cartel to disrupt one of the most lucrative routes for drug smugglers by bringing increased attention from the federal government, according to a security expert and a US investigator.

''The group implicated in this massacre, presumably the Sinaloa cartel, should feel satisfied,'' said Alejandro Hope, a former Mexican intelligence official and security analyst writing in the online political portal Political Animal. ''They went to their rival's territory, killed 35 people, were able to get the federal government to mobilise additional troops in the backyard of their nemesis, presumably the Zetas. It's made their lives more difficult without paying a price.''

It has been another bloody week in Mexico, with killings reported across the country, including four journalists in the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz, and 12 people - 10 gunmen and two soldiers - in the western state of Sinaloa. In all those locations, the clashes appear to be between the Sinaloa cartel and the Zetas.

With the presidential election in July, the killings ''will likely increase in the weeks to come as both sides battle for attention and to intimidate one another,'' said a US investigator, speaking on condition of anonymity. ''This is as much about controlling territory as it is about political positioning before the election.''

One Nuevo Laredo resident said she had reached her limit. She and her husband decided to do what hundreds of others have already done: ''We're moving to Texas.''

The two cartels are fighting for control of the corridor that leads into Interstate 35, known as one of the most lucrative routes for smugglers.

Meanwhile, the number of killings in Ciudad Juarez has fallen by more than 40 per cent - although it continues to be the most violent city in Mexico, states the federal government.

In April, 106 people were killed in Juarez, said New Mexico State University librarian Molly Molloy, who keeps a count based on media reports. This year, 408 people have been killed, an average of 3.4 per day. Since the beginning of 2008, at least 10,493 have been killed, an average of 6.6 people per day, she said.

The Dallas Morning News

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