Pubdate: Sat, 02 Aug 2003
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Section: Page A7
Copyright: 2003 Globe Newspaper Company
Author: Ricardo Sandoval, Dallas Morning News


MEXICO CITY -- At least five people were dead and several injured after a 
day of what police believe is an outbreak of drug-gang violence in Nuevo 
Laredo, a bustling commercial city on the Mexico-Texas border.

Three people died in an early morning shootout yesterday between groups of 
heavily armed men in an area near downtown Nuevo Laredo. Two were killed 
when a pickup truck was struck in the shootout and caught fire, police 
said. Another died of gunshot wounds at the scene.

None of the dead have been identified, officials said. Officials denied 
that army units called into the shootout had destroyed a truck with a bazooka.

Five hours after the 2 a.m. shootout, police found two more bodies in a 
vehicle outside of Nuevo Laredo. The unidentified men had been handcuffed 
and shot in the head, according to local police.

The bloody day in Nuevo Laredo is the latest in a year of violence that has 
killed at least 20 local, state, and federal police officers on this 
stretch of the US-Mexico border. The body count includes four federal 
agents who were kidnapped and executed, according to federal officials.

US and Mexican drug agents suspect that the new violence is related to 
rival drug gangs vying for control of a region dominated by the Gulf 
Cartel. Earlier this year, Osiel Cardenas, the Gulf Cartel's leader, was 
arrested by the Mexican army after a ferocious shootout with his bodyguards 
- -- some of whom were former soldiers and police officers.

It was unclear what the role of federal police and the military was in 
yesterday's violence in Nuevo Laredo. What is known is that around 2 a.m. 
local police reported being in pursuit of a caravan of armed men in large 
vehicles. The suspects had fired upon them, and the local officers were 
calling for support from army units, according to taped conversations 
between dispatchers and local police, published by El Universal, a Mexico 
City newspaper. "They're shooting at us, we ask that you send in the 
military," one police officer says. A dispatcher responds that the army has 
been called and urges the officers on the scene to shoot at the assailants 
"in the name of our fallen colleagues."
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