Fear brews in Laredo amid border gunfights
NUEVO LAREDO, Tamaulipas — Late-night gunbattles with gangs who forced citizens from their cars and used the vehicles to block streets paralyzed Nuevo Laredo, as sounds of gunfire alarmed Texans on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande.
The Nuevo Laredo city government posted messages on Facebook warning citizens to stay indoors as the battles erupted at several intersections in the city across from Laredo.
Frightened people on the U.S. side of the border called emergency dispatchers after hearing gunfire, Laredo police spokesman Joe Baeza said Thursday. But he said there was no spillover violence.
“We were getting reports from people who live on the river’s edge that they could hear gunfire and explosions from the Mexico side,” Baeza said.
“We didn’t have any incidents on the American side. It’s hard for people to understand who don’t live here,” he added. “They’re not Vikings. They’re not going to invade us. It doesn’t work that way.”
Gangs used stolen cars and buses to block several main avenues in Nuevo Laredo.
“For your security, stay in your homes until the alert has passed,” the Mexican city’s government wrote on Facebook.
When the violence subsided, the government urged citizens to come forward and reclaim their stolen vehicles.
Nuevo Laredo is among several northern cities under siege from a turf battle between the Gulf drug cartel and its former enforcers, the Zetas gang of hit men. Violence has surged along the northeastern border with the United States since the two gangs split earlier this year.
To the west, eight suspected drug gang gunmen died in a battle with Mexican soldiers in the remote mountains of northern Chihuahua state, the federal Public Safety Department said Thursday.
The department cited an internal army report saying the clash occurred near the rural town of Madera, about 145 miles south of the U.S. border.
The gunmen apparently opened fire on an army patrol, but Mexico’s army didn’t offer any information on the attack or the identity of the attackers. The area is frequently used by gangs to produce and traffic drugs.
In Chihuahua’s state capital, also called Chihuahua, a banner appeared on a bridge threatening violence against “innocents” unless the state government fires its chief of police intelligence, Fernando Ornelas, the Diario de Juarez newspaper reported Thursday.