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23 die in Mexico border attacks

world Updated: Oct 15, 2008 12:06 IST

AFP
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Twenty three died in attacks in northern Mexico in the past two days, officials said on Tuesday, as the United States warned its citizens to increase vigilance when traveling south of the border.

Twelve died in northwestern Baja California State, mostly in the volatile border city of Tijuana, and 11 were killed in Chihuahua, further east.

Border areas where rival drug cartels are battling over key routes into the United States are among the worst hit in escalating violence across Mexico this year in which almost 3,500 have died, including civilians.

"Increased levels of violence make it imperative that travelers understand the risks of travel to Mexico," said a new six-monthly State Department travel alert.

The twelve deaths in Baja California included two adults and two minors in an AK-47 attack in Tijuana Tuesday, said Jose Manuel Yepiz, spokesman for the prosecutor's office.

An armed commando also killed a former police officer in the border town of Mexicali.

Eleven died in attacks in Chihuahua State in the past 24 hours, including a former police commander, said Alejandro Pariente, spokesman for the state attorney general's office, on Tuesday.

Chihuahua is a flashpoint in an increasingly bloody turf war between drug cartels, with more than 1,000 killed in the state's border city of Ciudad Juarez alone so far this year.

"The situation in Ciudad Juarez is of special concern," the State Department said of the city across the border from the US city of El Paso.

"A recent series of muggings near the US Consulate General in Ciudad Juarez has targeted applicants for US visas," it added, as an increasing number of civilians flee the city's violence.

It underlined the use of automatic weapons and grenades by drug cartels, as well as public shootings which have taken place during daylight hours in border cities including Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana and Nogales.

Criminals have followed and harassed US citizens traveling in border areas, sometimes wearing full or partial police or military uniforms, it said.

It also called for vigilance during public rallies, after an Independence Day grenade attack last month in central Mexico in which eight died.

A government crackdown on drug-related violence, initiated by President Felipe Calderon almost two years ago and including the deployment of 36,000 troops, has showed no sign of stopping the killings.

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