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02-01-2012, 22:12 #1
Killings targeting police in Ciudad Juarez
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico --Police in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez are spending their time between shifts in heavily guarded hotels after a wave of killings targeting police.
Eight officers were gunned down in January. Most were off duty. The murders are the latest challenge for police chief Julian Leyzaola as he works to restore law and order in Mexicoâ€™s murder capital.
The U.S. government has provided $1.5 billion worth of aid to Mexico under the Merida initiative, including including training and equipment to help police fight violent drug cartels.
Police officers in Juarez say theyâ€™re in a fight for their lives.
â€œThe only thing weâ€™re sure of is they want us dead,â€ said an officer standing outside police headquarters. She and others did not want their names used for fear theyâ€™ll be fired or become targets.
Officers are on edge after the latest attack near a police substation. Monday, a group of gunmen opened fire and tossed a grenade at officers at a gas station. The grenade failed to detonate.
The police shot and killed three suspected hit men. Three officers were wounded during the gunfight but none seriously. And officers chased down and caught one suspect at the scene.
Banners hung in the border city last Wednesday warned the police chief a cop a day would be killed unless he stepped down.
The previous police chief of Juarez resigned in 2009 after a wave of cop killings followed by similar threats. But the mayor of Juarez says the current chief has no plans to leave his job.
Chief Leyzaola says the killings are the work of a group calling itself the New Juarez cartel and vowed to catch the leader, Johnny Gonzalez, a member of the Azteca gang nicknamed â€œTin Tan.â€
On a Juarez radio news program Chief Leyzaola said the cop killers belong behind bars or dead and buried.
To safeguard his officers the chief ordered the police force to sleep in heavily guarded hotels until further notice.
â€œThe order came from the top,â€ said an officer who did not want her name used. â€œWe were told those who did not like it could resign.â€
The officers are working double duty protecting the city and each other. Some had to scramble to deal with childcare issue.
Unlike federal police from Mexico City who lived in guarded hotels while on assignment, this is home for city police in Juarez.
â€œWeâ€™re going to be safe but what about our families?â€ asked an officer.