Gunmen Kill 18 At Drug Rehab Center In Mexico The attackers broke down the door of El Aliviane center in Ciudad Juarez, lined up their victims against a wall and opened fire, a law enforcement official said. Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, is Mexico's most violent city.
NPR logo Gunmen Kill 18 At Drug Rehab Center In Mexico

Gunmen Kill 18 At Drug Rehab Center In Mexico

A man walks in front of El Aliviane drug rehabilitation center in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juarez on Thursday. The center was the site of a bloody massacre Wednesday night. AP hide caption

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A man walks in front of El Aliviane drug rehabilitation center in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juarez on Thursday. The center was the site of a bloody massacre Wednesday night.

AP

At least 18 people were killed when gunmen broke into a drug rehabilitation center in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juarez and went on a shooting spree, Mexican officials said.

Witnesses said four men broke down the door of the El Aliviane rehabilitation center in the Bellavista neighborhood about 7 p.m. Wednesday, lined the victims up against the wall and shot them, army spokesman Enrique Torres told Ciudad Juarez's El Diario newspaper. Two people remained hospitalized in critical condition.

Most of the victims were seeking treatment for alcohol or drug abuse at the house turned hostel, police said. According to El Diario, many of the dead were members of the notorious Barrio Azteca gang, which has spread to Mexico from Texas.

There have been five attacks against drug rehabilitation centers since August 2008, the newspaper reported. It said drug traffickers stage the attacks to get rid of rivals, who often seek shelter at the centers.

Mexican army soldiers stand guard as forensic workers remove a body from El Aliviane drug rehabilitation center in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, after gunmen broke through the door and opened fire. At least 18 people were killed, and two were seriously wounded. AP hide caption

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Mexican army soldiers stand guard as forensic workers remove a body from El Aliviane drug rehabilitation center in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, after gunmen broke through the door and opened fire. At least 18 people were killed, and two were seriously wounded.

AP

The Mexico City daily El Universal said state Public Security Secretary Victor Valencia de los Santos warned earlier this week that drug rehabilitation centers are becoming a hotbed of criminal activity. "Cartels are recruiting young people from 17 to 23 years old" at the centers, the paper quoted him as saying.

Juarez, which lies across the border from the west Texas city of El Paso, is among the most violent cities in the country. Mexican President Felipe Calderon dispatched as many as 10,000 troops there earlier this year to combat violence by drug gangs, but the cartels have not been deterred.

In other drug violence, suspected drug traffickers on Wednesday gunned down Jose Manuel Revueltas Lopez, one of the state's top security officials, and his two bodyguards.

Michoacan Attorney General Jesus Montejano Ramirez said heavily armed men in two vehicles overtook Revueltas Lopez as he was driving home from his office at the Department of Public Safety down a busy street in the Michoacan state capital of Morelia. The gunmen pulled alongside Revueltas Lopez's vehicle and opened fire, but he was initially able to elude them.

About six blocks away, two vehicles blocked the path of Revueltas Lopez's car, and armed men got out and opened fire. Montejano Ramirez said a bystander also was killed in the spray of bullets.

Government officials said Revueltas Lopez — who had been on the job only two weeks — was killed in retaliation for the arrests of top figures in the La Familia drug cartel, including Luis Ricardo Magana. Magana allegedly controlled methamphetamine trafficking into the United States. The cartel is also suspected of killing 18 federal agents and two soldiers last month. In one attack, the bodies of 12 agents were left along a roadside as a warning.

Michoacan, the president's home state, was the first state to receive help from troops to battle drug cartels after Calderon was elected in 2006.

At least 1,400 deaths in Juarez have been blamed on drug violence this year alone.

Wednesday's massacre in Ciudad Juarez was the largest since March 4, when violence between the Barrio Azteca gang and rival gangs left 20 dead at the Cereso prison near Ciudad Juarez.

The state of Chihuahua, which includes Ciudad Juarez, has been gripped by violence for years, as warring drug cartels battle for supremacy in the lucrative drug market.

From NPR staff and wire reports

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