By Frank James
When the deadly shootings of individuals linked to the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico happened over the weekend, there were two immediate theories about what happened.
Either the drug gangs were escalating their violence to an even more dangerous degree by taking on the U.S. government. Or they had made a mistake as they have before.
FBI investigators have told reporters they're leaning towards the latter possibility, that the killings were a mistake.
If that's the case, the weekend's killings would be yet one more high-profile example of the Mexican drug gangs killing victims they apparently didn't intend to murder. Another recent high-profile case was the killing of 16 young people at a party members of a drug gang thought was an rival organization.
The Associated Press reports:
The working theory, described to the AP by FBI spokeswoman Andrea Simmons, drives home just how dangerous Ciudad Juarez has become - and just how vulnerable those who live and work there can be, despite the Mexican government's claims that most victims are drug smugglers.
According to the line of investigation, the assailants - believed to be aligned with the Juarez drug cartel - may have been ordered to attack a white SUV leaving a party and mistakenly went to the "Barquito de Papel," which puts on children's parties and whose name means "Paper Boat."
"We don't have any information that these folks were directly targeted because of their employment by the U.S. government or their U.S. citizenship," Simmons said by phone from El Paso, just across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juarez.
Experts as well cast doubt on the idea that drug cartels would be interested in turning their guns on U.S. government employees.
"A systematic, nationwide shift to the use of such tactics would work against drug traffickers' interests," said Allyson Benton, an analyst with the Eurasia Group. "It would dramatically raise the level of both Mexican and U.S. governmental involvement in the fight against organized crime."
The Mexican-citizen husband of a consulate employee was shot dead while his young children, 2, 4 and 7, sat in the backseat of the car.
In another shooting, a pregnant consulate employee and her husband were both killed while their seven-month old daughter was in a car seat on the back seat.