Mexican city shifts focus after blast
Drug cartels vow to kill more police
CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico — Mexican drug traffickers’ first car-bomb attack against police has revealed a new level of cold-blooded planning that is forcing this border city and security forces to change the way they confront violence.
Police said Friday that La Linea drug gang — the same group blamed for the March killing of a US Consulate employee and her husband — lured federal officers and paramedics to the site of a car bomb by dressing a bound, wounded man in a police uniform and calling in a false report of an officer shot.
The gang then exploded a car holding as much as 22 pounds of explosives, killing the decoy, a rescue worker, and a federal officer. A regional military commander said a cellphone might have been used to detonate the bomb.
The gang promised to strike again, with graffiti painted on the wall of a Ciudad Juárez shopping center. “What happened . . . is going to keep happening against all the authorities,’’ the message read. “We have more car bombs.’’
Mayor José Reyes Ferriz said city authorities “will have to change the way we operate. We’ve started changing all our protocols to include bomb situations.’’
He fears such attacks could hit the morale of his already overworked police force.
“Having attacks, direct attacks, on the Police Department creates the possibility of police just retiring or quitting,’’ he said.
Reyes Ferriz said at least 14 police officers or other law enforcement officials have been killed in the past few weeks in and around the city. The Police Department has about 2,800 officers.
They are backed up by as many as 5,000 federal police, one of whom died in the car bombing Thursday.
Ciudad Juárez residents were emotionally shaken by the bombing, which scattered debris over a 300-yard radius and blew out the windows of a home.
Ciudad Juárez, across from El Paso, has become one of the most dangerous cities in the world, with more than 4,000 people killed since the beginning of 2009.
Police said Thursday’s attack was in retaliation for the arrest of a top leader of La Linea drug gang, Jesus Acosta Guerrero, earlier in the day.
Police said Acosta Guerrero, 35, was the “operations leader’’ of La Linea, which works for the Juárez drug cartel. He was responsible for at least 25 killings and ordered attacks on police.
Drug cartel battles have resulted in the deaths of about 25,000 people since late 2006 in Mexico.
While cartels have often used grenades and high-powered rifles against police and soldiers, Thursday’s attack was the first time a cartel has successfully used a sizable bomb against security forces.
Brigadier General Eduardo Zarate, the commander of the regional military zone, said as much as 22 pounds of explosives might have been used in the attack. Burned batteries connected to a mobile phone were found at the scene, he added.
Meanwhile, in the northeastern border city of Nuevo Laredo, 12 people were killed and 21 wounded in running gun battles between soldiers and cartel gunmen Friday.
Gunmen blocked some streets with hijacked vehicles at the height of the battles, which occurred in at least three points in the city, prompting the US Consulate to warn American citizens in the city to remain indoors.
Seven of the 21 wounded were listed in serious condition, the federal Interior Department said in a news statement, and three of the seriously wounded were children apparently caught in the crossfire.
The dead included nine suspected gunmen, two civilians, and one soldier.