Gunmen Attack Mexican Army Barracks
April 7, 2010Suspected cartel gunmen wounded two soldiers in an unprecedented grenade attack on army housing in northern Mexico, the latest sign that drug gangs increasingly are turning to open warfare tactics against the military.
The gunmen fired the grenade from a rifle at a camp where soldiers live with their families outside the Gulf coast city of Tampico, the Defense Department said in a statement Tuesday.
The two wounded soldiers were treated, but none of their relatives was harmed in the attack Monday.
The Defense Department reiterated its stance that cartels are acting out of desperation in the face of army successes in the drug war.
"Members of organized crime staged a cowardly attack with a rifle-fired grenade," the department said. "These types of aggressions demonstrate that the structure of organized crime has been eroded, provoking desperate acts like attacking families of the armed forces."
Soldiers pursued the assailants but only found their abandoned car, with five guns and a grenade inside, the statement said.
Army positions have repeatedly come under attack in recent weeks in the northwestern states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon, which border Texas. Cartel gunmen have ambushed military patrols on highways and thrown up street blockades in front of army garrisons.
The fighting has occurred amid a split between the Gulf cartel and its former ally, the Zetas drug gang. Experts say the gangs may be trying to get the army out of the way of their fight over control of drug trafficking routes in the region.
So far, no soldier has been killed in the latest wave of confrontations, while drug gang have suffered heavily losses. Eighteen assailants were killed in seven different shootouts in one day last week. Civilians have been caught in the crossfire, including two children ages 5 and 8, who were killed over the weekend.
While cartels lack the training of the military, they have the firepower: soldiers have seized dozens of grenades, semi-automatic rifles and even homemade explosives at the scene of the gunbattles.
Meanwhile, seven prison guards were arrested for alleged complicity in a jailbreak last week in Reynosa, a Tamaulipas city that borders McAllen, Texas, the attorney general's office announced in statement Tuesday.
Authorities initially said 13 prisoners escaped, but the statement Tuesday said only 12 did.
The Tamaulipas state government said gunmen drove up in 10 cars and exchanged gunfire with guards. Three inmates were killed, but it was unclear who shot them.
Tamaulipas state Gov. Eugenio Hernandez said Tuesday he asked the federal government for help in guarding state prisons holding inmates who have committed federal offenses because "state authorities don't have the capacity to prevent jailbreaks."
The Interior Department said in a statement late Tuesday that corruption and collusion with organized crime by some government officials contributed to the recent jailbreaks in Tamaulipas. It said the jailbreaks "are not proof that criminals prevail over institutions" and it encouraged the Tamaulipas government to punish those responsible.
Elsewhere, five men were killed when gunmen opened fire on their car Monday outside a shopping mall in Mazatlan, a city in the northeastern state of Sinaloa, said Martin Gastelum, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office.
In the Pacific coast state of Guerrero, police found the bodies of two men who were shot to death and had their hands and feet bound with tape, authorities said.
Police found the decomposing bodies Tuesday in a ravine in the town of Chilapa de Alvarez after receiving an anonymous tip, Guerrero state Public Safety Department said in a statement.
Both men were wearing military boots and police found M-16 shell casings at the scene, it said.
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