US citizens shot dead by Mexican drug gangs

US citizens shot dead by Mexican drug gangs

By Adam Thomson in Mexico City

Published: March 14 2010 22:53 | Last updated: March 14 2010 22:53

Three people with links to the US consulate in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juárez were gunned down at the weekend by “drug cartel hit teams”, according to a US official.

A consulate employee and her husband, both US citizens, were murdered while driving in the violent border city, which neighbours El Paso, Texas. Their baby daughter, who was sitting in the back seat, survived the attack.

In a separate incident the husband of a Mexican consulate employee was killed while driving through the city, one of the world’s most violent. According to media reports, his two children were injured in the attack.

On Sunday Mike Hammer, the White House National Security Council spokesman, said Barack Obama, US president, was “deeply saddened and outraged” by the news of the killings.

Mexico’s foreign ministry issued a statement condemning the murders and promised to work with the US government to investigate the crime. “Mexican authorities will work tirelessly to throw light on the circumstances surrounding the crime,” it said.

The murders come as Mexico suffers a wave of violence associated with the government’s war on organised crime, which it has made its policy cornerstone.

At the weekend, local media reported the murder of 31 people in and around the Pacific-coast beach resort of Acapulco in what are believed to be drug-related murders. At least two of the victims were found decapitated.

The crimewave has provoked the US to issue travel warnings for citizens planning on visiting Mexico’s border cities. On Sunday the US state department announced that its diplomats working in six northern Mexico cities were told they could send family members home.

But so far this year, Ciudad Juárez has borne the brunt of the crime. During the first two months of 2010, 410 people were murdered in the sprawling, industrial city. Last year there were 2,600 murders in the city, which has a population of 1.3m.

Felipe Calderón, Mexico’s centre-right president, has sent thousands of troops to patrol the city’s streets in the past 12 months in an attempt to restore order.

But federal police officers and military personnel complain they do not have sufficient intelligence to combat the crime groups effectively.

A recent poll showed that the violence was taking its toll on the government, with Mr Calderón’s image as a leader at 47 per cent – the lowest point since he took office in December 2006.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010. Print a single copy of this article for personal use. Contact us if you wish to print more to distribute to others.

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