MEXICO CITY — Getting treatment for drug addiction has become a dangerous activity in the northern state of Chihuahua, where gunmen allied with drug cartels have staged numerous attacks on rehabilitation centers, including a particularly vicious massacre on Thursday night that left 19 men dead, the authorities said Friday.
At least two dozen assailants raided the Faith and Life Center in Chihuahua city just before 11 p.m., the authorities said. After rousting the patients and ordering them to lie face down, the gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons, killing 19 people and wounding at least 4 others, according to the police and news accounts from the scene. The authorities recovered 184 bullet casings, the newspaper El Universal reported.
And in Ciudad Madero, a city in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, the bullet-riddled bodies of 18 men and 2 women were found Friday in five different parts of the city, The Associated Press reported. The attack on Thursday at the rehabilitation center was not the first such attack. The night before, one man was killed and another was wounded at a rehabilitation center in Ciudad Juárez, a troubled border city in Chihuahua State.
Last September, at another rehab center in the city, within sight of the United States-Mexico border, 17 young men were killed by multiple gunmen, who managed to escape into the night.
The police have attributed those attacks and others to rival drug gangs seeking to wipe out opponents who are undergoing treatment for addictions. Patients are usually locked inside the centers to keep them away from the streets, making them particularly vulnerable to attacks.
President Felipe Calderón, in South Africa for the opening of the World Cup, issued a statement condemning the attack. “These are outrageous acts that reinforce the conviction of the need to use the full force of the law against criminals that perform these barbaric acts,” he said.
The killers left behind a statement of their own. “This is what happens to pigs, rats, killers, kidnappers, rapists,” it said.
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