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MEXICO UNDER SIEGE

Gunmen kill 15 at carwash, in latest Mexico massacre

The attack took place in the Nayarit state capital, Tepic. State authorities said 13 of the victims, all men, worked at the carwash and that most were clients of a drug rehab center.

October 28, 2010|By Ken Ellingwood, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Mexico City — In Mexico's third mass shooting in less than a week, gunmen opened fire Wednesday at a carwash in the Pacific coast state of Nayarit, killing at least 15 people.

The midmorning attack took place in the state capital, Tepic, rocked this year by bouts of drug-related violence.

Nayarit authorities said 13 of the victims, all men, worked at the carwash and that most were clients of the same drug treatment center, Alcance Victoria (Victory Outreach). As for the remaining two killed, one was found dead at a nearby fruit stand and the other was shot while arriving at the carwash on a motorcycle.

The Sol de Nayarit newspaper said on its website that three victims wore matching T-shirts emblazoned with "Fe y Esperanza," or "Faith and Hope." The website showed bodies scattered in the area where cars are washed.

A witness told W Radio that men arrived in two SUVs, carrying rifles. When the gunmen got out of the vehicles, the witness said, shots erupted first from inside the carwash. The men with rifles then opened fire on the manager and workers, he said.

Officials did not specify a motive for the attack, though it bore signs of organized crime. Three people were wounded. It was unclear whether any customers were hurt.

The attack was the country's third massacre in recent days. On Sunday, gunmen fatally shot 13 men at a private drug treatment center in Tijuana. Two days earlier, attackers opened fire on a birthday party in Ciudad Juarez, killing 14.

President Felipe Calderon, appearing at a forum on public safety in the central state of Morelos, asked for a minute of silence for the victims of the three attacks.

"These are acts perpetrated by unscrupulous criminals who snatch life from innocent people, most of them young people with life ahead of them, young people struggling to build a future, to overcome addictions, to study," Calderon said.

In June, Nayarit's governor, Ney Gonzalez Sanchez, closed the state's schools three weeks early after shootouts left more than 30 people dead over several days. He said he was shortening the school calendar to prevent a public "psychosis."

Nayarit, with pretty beaches and a growing tourist industry, has seen fighting between traffickers explode this year, with at least 155 people killed, according to a tally by the daily newspaper Reforma. Last year, 22 were killed.

Some transplants from Nayarit have gained notoriety on the U.S. side of the border by creating a successful network for peddling black-tar heroin.

In Guerrero state Wednesday, three men and a woman were shot dead in a residential area of the resort city of Acapulco, where cartel fighting has left at least 18 people dead in recent days. The spate of violence appears to pit leaders of the Beltran Leyva group against a breakaway faction once led by Edgar Valdez Villarreal, known as "La Barbie," who was arrested by police in August.

ken.ellingwood@latimes.com

Cecilia Sanchez in The Times' Mexico City Bureau contributed to this report.

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