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MEXICO UNDER SIEGE

More than two dozen killed within hours

October 11, 2008|Tracy Wilkinson | Times Staff Writer

MEXICO CITY — In another violent spasm, more than two dozen people were killed in Mexico within hours late Thursday and early Friday, including a newspaper publisher, two federal agents and a group gunned down as they drank at a bar.

The slayings came as Mexico endures an unprecedented wave of drug-related warfare that has claimed thousands of lives as narcotics trafficking networks battle among themselves and with authorities.

In the northern city of Chihuahua, 11 people died when four masked men dressed in black entered the Rio Rosas bar late Thursday and raked customers with gunfire. Seven people were wounded. The gunmen reportedly gained entrance by telling a guard that they were conducting a routine inspection. They disappeared into the night after the shootings, state prosecutors said, and no arrests had been made.

A columnist for a local newspaper was among the dead.

Early Friday, two federal agents and two suspected drug traffickers were killed in a shootout along the highway between Chihuahua and Ciudad Juarez, a city that borders Texas and has been an epicenter of drug violence.

In a separate incident, Miguel Angel Villagomez, the editor and publisher of La Noticia, a daily newspaper in the state of Michoacan, was found dead Friday morning with three gunshots to his body.

Associates said Villagomez left the newspaper office, in the Pacific port city of Lazaro Cardenas, on Thursday afternoon to give one of his employees a ride home. He was apparently followed, intercepted and seized, the associates said.

Francisco Rivera, deputy editor, said the paper recently published photographs of banners that had appeared in the city, purportedly the work of drug traffickers, and that might have been the reason Villagomez was targeted.

"We don't see any other motive," Rivera said in a telephone interview.

The banners, dozens of which have popped up in cities all over the country, offer rewards for the capture of suspects in a Sept. 15 grenade attack on civilians in the Michoacan state capital of Morelia, and appear to be part of a mutual finger-pointing campaign between rival drug gangs.

Journalist advocacy groups have rated Mexico as one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a reporter. The Inter American Press Assn. this week urged Mexican authorities to end what is in effect impunity for the killers of journalists by more seriously investigating such crimes.

In Tijuana, where fighting has surged in recent weeks and dozens have died, 13 people were reported killed late Thursday and early Friday. Among those shot to death, authorities said, was Francisco Javier Salas, a newspaper vendor. He may have been targeted after witnessing a slaying, Mexican media reported.

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wilkinson@latimes.com

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On latimes.com

Mexico Under Siege

To see previous coverage of Mexico's drug war, go to latimes.com/siege.

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