Cartels target police following arrests of leaders

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Authorities in Juarez on high alert after gun battles leave 7 gang members dead, 6 officers wounded

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Police in Juarez, Mexico remain on high alert following a series of retaliatory attacks from drug gangs angry at the capture of their leaders.

On Sunday, four police officers in Juarez and two members of Chihuahua Gov. Javier Corral’s personal guard in the state capital came under fire from drug traffickers. The previous Friday, six gang members who shot an officer in Juarez were killed when police and Mexico’s National Guard stormed the house in which they were hiding.

Chihuahua state officials characterized the attacks as “intimidation tactics” from the Sinaloa cartel and its rival La Linea drug trafficking organization.

“They mean to intimidate us,” Corral said at a news conference on Monday in Juarez. “But we are committed to confronting the enemies of peace. … We should not and will not negotiate with criminals.”

Chihuahua Attorney General Cesar Augusto Peniche said the attacks come on the heels of the arrest of the brother of Sinaloa cartel proxy leader Francisco “El Jaguar” Arvizu Marquez and the arrest of six members of the La Linea drug trafficking organization.

Jorge Luis “El Lobo” Arvizu Marquez was arrested more than a week ago along with an accomplice in southern Chihuahua state. His brother “Jaguar” is leading Sinaloa’s efforts to wrestle back control of the Chihuahua countryside from La Linea, remnants of the old Juarez cartel, the attorney general said.

That fight has left dozens of drug traffickers dead in the southern part and western part of the state and claimed the lives of several police officers. In Juarez itself, the two cartels have delegated the fight to their proxies — street gangs like “Mexicles,” “Barrio Azteca,” “La Empresa” and “Artistas Asesinos” or “Assassin Artists,” Mexican officials and U.S. security experts say.

Peniche said Corral’s two bodyguards were attacked at the end of their shift in the entrance of the neighborhood where the governor lives with his family. The officers were able to fire back after being hit by gunfire, forcing the attackers to flee. Three men were later arrested and are being questioned in connection with the attack, the Attorney General said.

In Juarez, three officers in a tactical unit came under heavy fire near a shopping center. One officer was hit by three bullets that pierced his lung, torso and shoulder; two others were hurt after the unit crashed into a metal pole, he said.

Another Juarez officer exchanged fire with assailants driving a Jeep Cherokee, apparently killing one of the attackers but escaping injury himself. One more officer was hurt during a drive-by shooting at the state police station in Juarez, he said.

“We live in complex times. These cowardly attacks force us to take extreme care, to be alert, with our guard up because at any time these people mean to hurt our police officers,” Corral said.

Chihuahua Gov. Javier Corral (center) and his top law-enforcement officials speak in Juarez about the deadly gun battles of the past few days. (photo courtesy Government of Chihuahua)

In El Paso, the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration said the violence in Juarez is reaching levels not seen since the drug wars of a decade ago.

“The recent violence on police is certainly concerning. They are going after the authorities, the people in charge of enforcing the laws,” said Kyle W. Williamson, special agent in charge of the El Paso Division of the DEA.

Visit the BorderReport.com homepage for the latest exclusive stories and breaking news about issues along the United States-Mexico border.

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