TIJUANA, Mexico – Four men were shot dead in front of a crowd at an amusement park, a toddler died after the car he was traveling in crashed during a gunbattle, and a businessman was killed after leading a protest against violence, officials said Thursday.
All together, 21 people died during 24 hours across Mexico, which is waging a fierce battle against drug traffickers and other criminal gangs.
In Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, the four men were shot inside a go-cart rental at the Xtreme amusement park Wednesday night, said Alejandro Pariente, a spokesman for the local prosecutor's office. The park had been filled with teenagers, bicycling through obstacle courses, skating and rappelling.
Police had no suspects and had not disclosed possible motives for the shootings.
Elsewhere in the city, a used car salesman was shot to death while driving down a main boulevard hours after leading hundreds of other business owners in a protest against kidnappings and extortion, Pariente said.
The protesters had gathered at the Treasury Department's local offices, threatening to close their businesses or stop paying taxes if they did not receive police protection. One protester, who refused to give his name because he feared for his safety, said hundreds of business owners have been targeted by extortioners who demand up to US$500 a week for "protection" against crime. Others have been kidnapped for ransom.
In Tijuana, a 1-year-old boy was killed when the car he was riding in crashed as the driver tried to flee a gunbattle late Wednesday between police and three armed men, officials in the state prosecutor's office said. The toddler, who had been sitting in his mother's lap, died from the impact of the crash.
Two men were taken into custody after the shooting, and one officer was wounded.
Two other people were found dead early Thursday in Tijuana, across the border from San Diego, California, including a badly burned corpse left in a trash bin.
Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez have both seen nearly daily killings as Mexico is swept up in a wave of drug-related bloodshed. Officials blame the violence on cartels fighting over lucrative smuggling routes.
Elsewhere in northern Mexico, 10 gunmen were killed in running battles with state police in the city of Nogales, across the border from Nogales, Arizona, according to a police statement.
The fighting started when assailants in a car opened fire on police searching another vehicle. The police fired back, killing one of the armed men and injuring another.
The rest of the gunmen fled in both cars, at one point hurling grenades at the police pursuing them. One of the fleeing cars crashed into a wall, killing three gunmen. Three gunmen in the other car were killed in a subsequent shootout with the police, and others died at local hospitals.
Outside the northeastern city of Monterrey, meanwhile, a soldier, the director of a security firm and third man were found stabbed to death alongside a highway Wednesday, officials from the prosecutor's office said. At least 10 soldiers have been found dead in Nuevo Leon state, where Monterrey is located, in the past two weeks.