MONTERREY, Mexico – Five youths between the ages of 17 and 20 were shot and killed early Saturday in a suburb of this northern Mexican industrial city, security officials in Nuevo Leon state said.
Police received a report early Saturday that five bodies had been dumped in plain view on a road on the north side of Monterrey’s metropolitan area, a spokesperson for the state’s Security Council said, adding that the killings bore the hallmarks of gangland violence.
Detectives with the State Investigations Agency arrived at the Monterrey suburb of San Nicolas de los Garza’s Valle del Nogalar neighborhood, where the bodies were dumped, to inspect the crime scene.
The five youths had “the look of gang members” and had each been shot multiple times, the spokesperson said.
Investigators were trying to determine if the five victims may have been killed in another part of the city, since only one spent shell casing was found on the street.
Nuevo Leon, which borders Texas, has seen about 1,000 homicides this year, most of them connected to a brutal turf war between the Gulf and Los Zetas drug mobs.
Monterrey, a metropolis of 4 million people, is home to many of Mexico’s industrial giants and long seemed to be immune to the drug war that has claimed more than 40,000 lives nationwide since December 2006, when newly inaugurated President Felipe Calderon militarized the struggle with the cartels.
But that city and its suburbs have been battered by a wave of drug-related violence since March 2010.
Elsewhere, a municipal police officer in the violence-wracked northern border city of Ciudad Juarez was shot dead and another officer was wounded by suspected cartel hit men Saturday underneath an international crossing.
The attack occurred when at least four men in two SUVs drove up to the police, who were patrolling the area in an all-terrain vehicle, and opened fire with assault rifles.
U.S. authorities on the other side of the border temporarily closed the international bridge as a safety precaution while the District Attorney’s Office of Ciudad Juarez was carrying out its preliminary investigation.
The slain officer was identified as Victor Moreno, who, according to local media, had already been shot at by gunmen on two other occasions just over two months ago; the wounded police was reportedly in serious condition.
Last year alone, more than 3,100 organized crime-related homicides occurred in Ciudad Juarez, which is located across the border from El Paso, Texas, and is the largest city in Chihuahua state.
Home to 1.4 million people, Juarez has one of the world’s highest annual murder rates per 1,000 inhabitants.
At least 14,000 “armed criminals” are in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua city, the state capital, working for the drug cartels that are fighting for control of smuggling routes into the United States, Chihuahua state Attorney General Carlos Manuel Salas said earlier this year.
About 5,500 of the armed criminals operating in Ciudad Juarez belong to Los Aztecas, a gang that works as the armed wing of the Juarez cartel, while the rest work for the Sinaloa cartel, Salas said.