Monday, May 26, 2008

E-mail 'bloodbath' threat paralyzes Mexican city

400 dead in Juarez, too. Don't see as many stories about it as TJ or NL for some reason.

Mexico's northern border town of Juarez, infamous for its history of drug-related violence, has gone into lockdown after an e-mail began circulating warning of an unparalleled "bloodbath" in the coming days.
Shops, bars and restaurants have shut and soldiers are patrolling the streets, giving a surreal and dangerous tone to this city of 1.4 million people which sits just across the US border from the Texan town of El Paso.

Authorities are taking seriously the anonymous e-mail, which menaced "the bloodiest and most violent weekend in the history of Juarez."

The place is already reeling from a surge in murders that has claimed around 400 lives so far this year, several of them police officers and members of rival narcotics gangs.

The US embassy to Mexico has told US citizens that the message represented a "potential threat" and that public places, nightspots and the main streets in Juarez should all be avoided.

In Juarez, nerves frayed by the rising body count -- including at least 20 people killed over the past weekend, among them two policemen gunned down as they finished their shift -- have begun to shred in terror because of the much-forwarded e-mail, even though its veracity was unknown.

"We don't have any information to suspect that the e-mails are real," mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz said on Sunday.

Nevertheless, he said, extra police were being sent to those streets and areas mentioned in the message.

The army has already been reinforcing security in the city since March, though its presence has done little to deter the crime wave. Each weekend has seen an average of around 25 murders.

Municipal officials believe the violence gripping the city is the result of a war between drug cartels.

Reyes Ferriz had claimed early last week that the conflict was having no impact on life in general in Juarez. But the sudden evacuation of the streets after the e-mails paints a different picture.

One measure of the effect of the threat was the time it takes to cross one of the bridges into El Paso.

Usually, it is a trip of more than an hour. On the weekend, vehicles were crossing over in less than five minutes.


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