JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) — Two drug gangs are being blamed for a series of attacks on police that left two officers dead and 10 others injured on Wednesday.
Both the “Mexicles,” who are the enforcement arm of the Sinaloa cartel, as well as “La Linea” and the various street crews they control set out to hunt police officers in retaliation for recent drug seizures in Juarez, Mayor Armando Cabada said.
“All police agencies have struck hard very recently at all of the criminal groups that operate in Juarez. Yesterday’s violent reaction may be related to the millions of dollars in drugs and weapons seized from them by the various police agencies,” Cabada told reporters on Thursday.
The violence included nine separate attacks on police cars and police stations, the burning of two public transportation buses and “an inexplicable” shootout at Juarez General Hospital, Cabada said. Cartel thugs apparently followed an ambulance carrying a wounded officer and shot at it, wounding a paramedic, a Red Cross volunteer, a security guard and a woman bystander at the hospital’s entrance.
The paramedic remains in critical condition and one of the injured officers, a policewoman, has been left with a permanent disability, Cabada said.
The attacks subsided around 6 p.m., but then police went on a counteroffensive. Two suspected drug cartel members were killed in a shootout at an industrial park in East Juarez, 12 other suspects were arrested, and 11 vehicles and 20 guns were seized, Juarez authorities said.
Among those arrested is a 44-year-old man only identified as Jose Angel H.D., also known as “El Cankel.” Juarez Police Chief Raul Avila Ibarra said “El Cankel” is a leader of “La Empresa,” one of the gangs associated with “La Linea,” formerly known as the Juarez Cartel.
“They’re the leaders who control the plaza (the city). That means drug trafficking, collection of money, weapons trafficking and issuing orders regarding executing attacks against people or institutions,” Avila said.
The police chief declined to say if “El Cankel” was the leader or a second-tier leader of “La Empresa.” He was arrested while driving a vehicle carrying several rifles, including an AK-47, two AR-15-style rifles and a 9mm gun possibly used in one of the attacks. All 12 suspects in custody have been identified as members of “La Empresa.”
Avila said most of the attacks were drive-by shootings in which “the cowards” quickly fled or tried to flee the scene.
The first attack targeted state police officers outside a car wash on Tuesday evening in which the lawmen escaped injury.
The next day, several drive-by shootings were reported throughout the city. One left a female state police officer mortally wounded in the southeast part of the city. A municipal officer who was patrolling a natural gas company’s offices was shot to death on 16th of September Avenue in Downtown.
Late in the afternoon, police were already on alert when they came under fire from a vehicle that drove off. Police converged on the area and the occupants were forced to abandon the vehicle and seek refuge in an industrial park, Juarez officials said. A shootout at the park left the two suspects dead.
When they realized police had caught on and were reacting more swiftly to the attacks, the cartels switched tactics, officials said. They torched two buses — one near Downtown and one in West Juarez — after telling the drivers and passengers to exit the vehicle. A 16-year-old boy — his clothes charred — was arrested in connection to the bus burning in West Juarez.
Cabada said this is not the first time that police officers come under fire in Juarez, and that a permanent state of alert was being observed. He said police would always patrol in pairs or in caravans of vehicles, depending on the neighborhood or the circumstance.
Juarez officials have identified 25 neighborhoods near Downtown, in the Northwest and in the Southeast of the city were the gangs are most active. A lot of drug sales take place in these
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