Gunmen slay 18 in Mexican drug treatment centre

At least 18 people were killed on Wednesday when gunmen stormed into a drug treatment centre in northern Mexico’s violence-plagued border city of Ciudad Juarez, security officials said.

The commandos entered the facility and attacked 23 people, killing 18 and leaving five more wounded, a source in the public security department said.

“There could be more bodies,” the source said, adding that the dead were found near a small area of an entranceway to the centre.

Drug gangs have targeted rehab clinics in the city across from El Paso, Texas, accusing them of protecting dealers from rival gangs.

The suspected hitmen stormed their way into the drug and alcohol rehab clinic and forced patients into a line in a corridor before shooting them, the army and the El Diario newspaper said.

The attack capped a particularly bloody 24-hour period in Mexico that also saw the killing of 21 people overnight in drug-related violence in Chihuahua state and the murder of the number two security official in President Felipe Calderon’s home state of Michoacan.

Ciudad Juarez, just across the border from El Paso, Texas, is the bloodiest stage for an ongoing turf war between Mexican drug cartels battling for the right to control the trafficking of drugs into the United States, the world’s largest market for cocaine and marijuana.

Last year in a similar attack, eight people were gunned down at a Mexican clinic that treats drug addicts.

More than 9 600 people have died in the drug-related violence since 2008, despite Calderon’s deployment of some 36 000 troops and police across the country to try to stem the bloodshed.

According to an Agence France-Presse tally based on police data, in the first seven months of 2009 there were 1 161 murders in Ciudad Juarez alone despite thousands of police and soldiers sent there to maintain security.—AFP

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