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Thursday, 6 March 2008

Shooting deaths of five young people whose bodies were found Tuesday off a dirt road in a rural section of Tijuana

The shooting deaths of five young people whose bodies were found Tuesday off a dirt road in a rural section of Tijuana are being linked to their suspected gang involvement, authorities said.
“It makes us very sad, because of their youth, but the initial information that we've received indicates they weren't exactly white doves,” said Alberto Capella Ibarra, Tijuana's secretary of public safety. A passer-by spotted their bodies about 8 a.m. near Bulevar 2000, a new thoroughfare linking eastern Tijuana with the coast, authorities said. The youngest victim was a girl, between 16 and 18, according to the Baja California Attorney General's Office. Three of the four male victims ranged in age from 18 to 22, while the fourth appeared to be between 25 and 30, according to a statement the office released Tuesday. The Attorney General's Office had not identified the victims by Tuesday evening. They had been dead between three and six hours when they were found, according to the statement. The discovery comes a day after soldiers and federal police took on members of a kidnapping ring in a seven-hour gunbattle in a well-to-do hillside neighborhood in the central La Mesa district. The operation claimed one suspect's life, but resulted in the release of a kidnapping victim, the son of a prominent businessman, who was being held at the residence, Capella said. “In the business sector, there is much satisfaction” over the victim's rescue, Capella said.
Violence has increased in the region in recent months even as federal, state and municipal authorities have pledged a united front against organized crime and the Mexican military has taken on a unprecedented role in fighting criminal groups.
“We're in a new era, there's no doubt,” said Victor Clark, a Tijuana human rights activist who has followed crime trends in the city for years.
The stepped-up effort comes as the grip of the Arellano Felix cartel has weakened, and smaller criminal cells have been operating with less control, Clark said.
The complexity of the battle was evident Tuesday, as Gov. Jose Guadalupe Osuna Millan called on federal prosecutors to present better cases, lamenting that a judge released a group of suspects who had been detained by the military, citing lack of evidence. Ricardo Gonzalez Saba, national president of the influential business group COPARMEX, urged continued efforts against crime when he spoke in Tijuana Tuesday to business leaders and government officials. The issue of crime “is not ending, it is increasing in strength and virulence,” he said. One way or another, the crime issue has touched all sectors of society, and the image of violence has badly harmed tourist areas such as Avenida Revolucion and Rosarito Beach. State and municipal officials have taken measures to decrease police corruption, and say such reports have dropped drastically. This week's violence in Tijuana occurred far from tourist areas, and the incidents “have nothing to do” with foreign visitors to the city, Capella said. “Why not ask about all the gang-related shootings that take place in San Diego and Los Angeles,” he said, “and how this affects Mexicans who travel as tourists to California.”



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