Three people connected to the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, were killed in two drive-by shootings, a senior White House official told CNN Sunday.
Two of the victims were an American employee at the consulate and her U.S. citizen husband. The husband of a Mexican employee of the consulate was also killed. The shootings happened Saturday afternoon, the official said.
The American couple, identified by Mexican authorities only as a woman about 25 years old and a man around 30, were found dead inside a white Toyota RAV4 with Texas license plates, according to the Chihuahua state attorney general's office.
The woman was shot in the neck and left arm, while the man had a bullet wound near his right eye, officials said.
"We know that the U.S. citizens were targeted," Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz told CNN, saying a police officer witnessed a car shooting at the Americans' car. "We know they were chasing them. We know they wanted to kill them."
Authorities retrieved only one shell casing, from a 9 mm weapon.
About 10 minutes before authorities received the call, they were alerted to a body inside a 2003 Honda Pilot. Inside was the husband of the Mexican employee, identified as Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, 37. Reyes said the victim was a state police officer who was married to a Mexican employee at the U.S. consulate.
Two children, 4 and 7, were injured in that shooting and transported to the hospital, the attorney general's office said.
Police recovered two shells at that scene from an assault rifle, authorities said.
"The president is deeply saddened and outraged by the news of the brutal murders of three people associated with the United States Consulate General in Ciudad Juarez," National Security Council Spokesman Mike Hammer said in the statement Sunday. "He extends his condolences to the families and condemns these attacks on consular and diplomatic personnel serving at our foreign missions. In concert with Mexican authorities, we will work tirelessly to bring their killers to justice."
In response, the U.S. State Department authorized the temporary relocation of employees' families working in border-area consulates.
The families of employees at U.S. consulates in Tijuana, Nogales, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Monterrey and Matamoros, are allowed to leave for a period of 30 days "in response to an increase in violence along the Mexican side of its border with the U.S.," State Department spokesman Fred Lash told CNN.
After 30 days, the authorization can be renewed, depending on a review, Lash said, adding that this was not a mandatory evacuation.
The announcement was part of a warning to American citizens regarding travel to Mexico.
The warning urges U.S. citizens to delay nonessential travel to parts of the states of Durango, Coahuila and Chihuahua, where Juarez is located, because of recent violent attacks. U.S. government employees are restricted from traveling to all or parts of these three states.
The attacks include the kidnapping and killing of two resident U.S. citizens in Chihuahua, the warning states.
"Some recent confrontations between Mexican authorities and drug cartel members have resembled small-unit combat, with cartels employing automatic weapons and grenades," the warning says. "During some of these incidents, U.S. citizens have been trapped and temporarily prevented from leaving the area."
The mayor said the shootings highlight a problem shared by both countries along their border.
"It is not just a Mexican problem -- it's is a U.S.-Mexico problem," Reyes said. "I'm very glad that the U.S. has taken that position."
He said he supported the State Department's authorization to consular families and that "it is important they feel safe."
Mexico on Sunday said that its government was committed to protecting all people, citizens and visitors alike, diplomats or not.
"The Mexican government deeply laments the killings of three people linked to the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez," Mexico's foreign ministry said in a statement. "The Mexican authorities are working with determination to clear up the facts surrounding the crime scene and put those responsible before the law."
Juarez is one of the front lines in Mexico's war against the drug cartels that operate in its territory. More than 2,600 people were killed in Juarez in 2009.
Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, has become a focal point of Mexican President Felipe Calderon's anti-drug efforts after the January 31 killings of 15 people, most of whom were students with no ties to organized crime. The incident sparked outrage across Mexico.
In the western state of Guerrero, at least 25 people were killed in a series of violent acts on Saturday, state officials said.
The bodies of 14 people, including nine civilians and five police officers, were found in various parts of the resort city of Acapulco, the official Notimex news agency reported, citing Guerrero Public Security Secretary Juan Heriberto Salinas.
In the small city of Ajuchitlan del Progreso, 10 civilians and one soldier were killed in two shootouts that started when federal officials tried to carry out search warrants on two locations, Salinas said.
Police in the state were on a heightened security alert, he said.
The government has not released official figures, but national media say 7,600 Mexicans lost their lives in the war on drugs in 2009. Calderon said last year that 6,500 Mexicans died in drug violence in 2008.
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Tags: Killing, drive by, murder, drugs, cartels, mexico, embassy, US citizens
Location: Juarez, Mexico, Mexico (load item map)
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