U.S., Mexico Vow Action On Slain Americans

Mexican and U.S. leaders have vowed to track down the gunmen who killed three people, including two U.S. citizens, with ties to the U.S. Consulate in the border town of Juarez. Mexican authorities say they believe the killings are linked to the country's raging drug war.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

I'm Melissa Block.

And we begin this hour in Mexico where that country's brutal drug war took another tragic turn this weekend. A pregnant American woman who worked at the U.S. consulate in the border town of Juarez was shot to death in her car. Her husband was also killed.

An attack on U.S. government officials in Mexico is extremely rare. And both President Obama and his Mexican counterpart pledged to work together to track down the killers in that attack and a second killing the same day. We have two reports on the violence along the border. We begin with Monica Ortiz Uribe with the latest on the investigation in Juarez.

MONICA ORTIZ URIBE: It was another bloody weekend in Mexico, with some 50 people killed in violence. Many of the deaths are apparently related to ongoing battles by drug mafias. But a pair of shootings are getting all the attention. Three people linked to the U.S. consulate in Juarez, including consular worker Lesley Enriquez, were shot dead in almost simultaneous attacks.

The killings prompted an immediate response from the Obama administration. Both the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration have officers working on the case in Juarez. Andrea Simmons is a spokeswoman for the FBI office in El Paso, just across the border from Juarez.

Ms. ANDREA SIMMONS (Spokeswoman, FBI): We have agents who've flown in from Mexico City who have been over there the last few days assisting. DEA and some other agencies have agents who are already in Juarez as part of their normal operations, who are assisting. The El Paso office has agents who have gone over to assist.

URIBE: Private U.S. citizens have occasionally been caught up in the violence in Mexico but this is the first attack in the past two years directed at U.S. government officials. David Shirk is a fellow with the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. He studies Mexico and says this is yet another low point in that country's drug war.

Mr. DAVID SHIRK (Fellow, Woodrow Wilson Center): This is the most blatant and brutal attack on a U.S. diplomatic entity since the 1980s.

URIBE: In Saturday's shooting, Enriquez, who is pregnant, was shot and killed along with her husband, Arthur Redelfs. Both were U.S. citizens. They were driving in their car when they were shot. Their baby daughter, strapped in the back seat of their car, was unharmed.

The second attack occurred at almost the same time a few miles away in a residential area. There, 37-year-old Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros was killed. With him were two children, ages four and seven, who were injured and taken to the hospital. Salcido Ceniceros was the husband of another U.S. consulate worker who was a Mexican citizen.

All the victims are believed to have been coming from the social event in Juarez. In El Paso, city councilman Beto O'Rourke has helped author and pass two city resolutions asking for more U.S. assistance in Mexico's drug war.

Mr. BETO O'ROURKE (City Councilman, El Paso): I don't think the government on either side, Calderon's government or Obama's government, has done enough to this point to solve the underlying issues. I hope that as unfortunate as this recent tragedy is, that it's a call to action for the U.S. government at least to change or rethink their policy when it comes to Mexico and this drug war.

URIBE: He says the U.S. should do more to support the economy and social services in Mexico. The Bush administration and now the Obama administration have promised large amounts of aid to Mexico for its drug war. Most of that assistance is intended for equipment like helicopters and weapons. Even before the shootings this weekend, the State Department said U.S. consulate workers in Juarez and other diplomatic missions along the borders could send their families home to the United States due to the increasing violence.

For NPR News, I'm Monica Ortiz Uribe in El Paso.

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Cartel Hit Men Blamed For Latest Juarez Slayings

A Mexican soldier patrols the scene where three U.S. consulate staffers were slain in Ciudad Juarez. i i

A Mexican soldier patrols the scene where three U.S. consulate staffers were killed Saturday in Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas. Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images
A Mexican soldier patrols the scene where three U.S. consulate staffers were slain in Ciudad Juarez.

A Mexican soldier patrols the scene where three U.S. consulate staffers were killed Saturday in Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas.

Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images

FBI agents were conducting interviews Monday in the United States to assist Mexican police in the murder investigation of two Americans and a Mexican who had links to the U.S. consulate in the violent Mexican town of Ciudad Juarez.

FBI spokeswoman Andrea Simmons told NPR.org that as many as five U.S. law enforcement agencies were chasing down leads in Saturday's assassination-style murders of U.S. consulate employee Lesley A. Enriquez and her husband, Arthur H. Redelfs. Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, the husband of another consular employee, was killed in a separate attack.

"We are assisting [Mexican police] along with the DEA, ICE, the ATF, as well as the local sheriff's department," said Simmons. She said a "handful" of people who attended the party live on the U.S. side of the border would be interviewed by the FBI and, possibly, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.

Heard On 'All Things Considered'

The attorney general's office in the state of Chihuahua, where Juarez is located, speculated that the Aztecas street gang and La Linea, a group of cartel "enforcers," may be responsible.

The reason for the midafternoon attacks remained unclear.

Witnesses told police that a group of armed men followed Enriquez, 35, and Redelfs, 34, when they left the party around 2:42 p.m. The couple was driving in an area of the Paso del Norte and Stanton Street international bridges, but lost control and headed into oncoming traffic after being fired upon. Their white, late-model Toyota RAV4 crashed into other vehicles before coming to a stop.

A spokesman for the city of Juarez, Jaime Torres, told NPR that he was in his office at city hall when he heard a loud crash and the screeching of tires.

"We went out onto the street and saw six cars had crashed into each other just behind city hall," he said. Torres added that he saw a woman slumped dead in the driver's seat as he approached the car.

Enriquez was shot in the head, while Redelfs, a detention officer at the El Paso County Jail, was hit in the neck and arm, said Vladimir Tuexi, spokesman for the Chihuahua state prosecutor's office. The couple's 7-month-old daughter also was in the car but was not injured.

According to the Juarez newspaper El Diario, Enriquez was from a prominent Mexican family and was the niece of a former official in Mexico's federal government. Officials confirmed that she was pregnant when she was killed.

Minutes before that ambush, police in another part of the city found Salcido Ceniceros' body.

The 37-year-old was shot to death in his car around 2:32 p.m. near the intersection of Avenida Insurgentes and Articulo 39. His children, ages 4 and 7, were also in the vehicle and were taken to the hospital with unspecified injuries. Police said he was also driving a white SUV.

Meanwhile, news of the deaths reached the top levels of the U.S. and Mexican government. Mexican President Felipe Calderon promised to work swiftly to find the killers, while U.S. President Obama expressed outrage at the deaths.

The U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez, closed for Monday's Mexican national holiday, also will be closed Tuesday as a sign of mourning, said consulate spokesman Silvio Gonzalez.

It was the second U.S. border consulate closed because of violence in the past month. The consular office in Reynosa, across from McAllen, Texas, closed for several days in late February because of gun battles in the area.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department said the government would pick up the tab if employees in six Mexican cities want to send their families out of the area. The cities are Ciudad Juarez, Matamoros and Nuevo Laredo, which are across the border from cities in Texas; Nogales, which is on the border with Nogales, Ariz.; Monterrey; and Tijuana, which is near San Diego, Calif. The 30-day relocation periods could be extended, if needed.

The State Department also advised Americans to delay unnecessary travel to parts of Mexico.

From NPR's Deborah Tedford and wire reports

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