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Americans warned not to travel to certain parts of Mexico

By OLIVIA TORRES
Associated Press Writer
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) - Suspected drug gang hit men
separately ambushed two cars carrying families with ties to the
U.S. consulate in this violent border city, killing an American
couple and a Mexican man. Three young children survived, although
two suffered wounds.
The slayings came amid a surge in bloodshed along Mexico's
border with Texas and drew condemnation from the White House.
Mexico's president expressed outrage and promised a fast
investigation to find those responsible.
Mexican authorities put suspicion on a gang of hit men allied
with the Juarez drug cartel based on "information exchanged with
U.S. federal agencies," according to a statement Sunday from the
joint mission of soldiers and federal police overseeing security in
Ciudad Juarez.
But police offered no information on a possible motive in the
slayings. U.S. State Department spokesman Fred Lash said only that
the three dead people were at the same party before the attacks
that occurred minutes apart Saturday afternoon.
The U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez, shut for Monday's Mexican
national holiday, also will be closed on Tuesday as "a way for the
community to mourn the loss" of the victims, said consulate
spokesman Silvio Gonzalez. It was the second U.S. border consulate
closed because of violence in the last month. The consular office
in Reynosa, across from McAllen, Texas closed for several days in
late February because of gun battles in the area.
Several U.S. citizens have been killed in Mexico's drug war,
most of them people with family ties to Mexico. It is very rare for
American government employees to be targeted, although attackers
hurled grenades at the U.S. consulate in the northern city of
Monterrey in 2008.
The atmosphere of violence in Juarez had been creeping closer to
U.S. offices for some time: on Friday, the consulate put a bar just
around the block from its office off limits to U.S. government
personnel "due to security concerns."
The State Department authorized U.S. government employees at
Ciudad Juarez and five other U.S. consulates in northern Mexico to
send family members out of the area because of concerns about
rising drug violence. The cities are Tijuana, Nogales, Nuevo
Laredo, Monterrey and Matamoros.
Lash said the decision was based not only on Saturday's killings
but also on a wider pattern of violence and threats in northern
Mexico in recent weeks. The State Department noted the U.S. Embassy
in Mexico City has advised American citizens to delay unnecessary
travel to parts of the Mexican states of Durango, Coahuila and
Chihuahua.
The consulate employee and her husband, both U.S. citizens, were
shot to death in their car near the Santa Fe International bridge
linking Ciudad Juarez with El Paso, Texas.
The woman was shot in the head, while her husband suffered
wounds in his neck and arm. Their baby, who appeared to be about 1
year old, was found unharmed in the back seat, said Vladimir Tuexi,
a spokesman for the Chihuahua state prosecutors office.
The pair was identified as consular employee Lesley A. Enriquez,
35, and her husband, Arthur H. Redelfs, 34, by Robert Cason,
Redelfs' stepfather. Redelfs was a detention officer at the El Paso
County Jail, he said.
Cason declined to discuss the welfare of his grandchild. "I
don't want to give any more information to the psychotics out
there," he said.
Tuexi said the baby was in the custody of Mexican social
services.
The U.S. government did not give any details on Enriquez's job
at the consulate, and Cason said he didn't know what she did there.
A neighbor of Enriquez, Zonia Rivas, also didn't know.
"I do know she just went back to work about three months ago
after having her baby," she said.
Ten minutes before that killing, police in another part of the
city found the body of the husband of a Mexican employee of the
consulate.
Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, 37, a Mexican citizen, was shot
to death in his car, while his two children, ages 4 and 7, were
wounded, according to the state prosecutors office. The children
were hospitalized.
Civilians have increasingly gotten caught in the middle of drug
gang violence that has made Ciudad Juarez one of the deadliest
cities in the world, with more than 2,500 people killed last year
alone.
The three died during a particularly bloody weekend in Mexico,
with nearly 50 people killed in apparent gang violence. Nine people
were killed in a gang shootout early Sunday in the Pacific resort
city of Acapulco, one of Mexico's spring break attractions.
Other stretches of the frontier with Texas that had been
relatively quiet have seen a surge of killings recently. U.S.
officials briefly closed the consulate in Reynosa because of
violence, which Mexican authorities have blamed on the breaking of
an alliance between two drug gangs.
The office of Mexican President Felipe Calderon's office said he
"expresses his indignation" and "his sincerest condolences to
the families of the victims" of Saturday's attack.
Calderon "reiterated the Mexican government's unwavering
compromise to resolve these grave crimes," his office said.
U.S. President Barack Obama was "deeply saddened and outraged"
by the killings, the White House said.
"He extends his condolences to the families and condemns these
attacks on consular and diplomatic personnel serving at our foreign
missions," the statement said. "In concert with Mexican
authorities, we will work tirelessly to bring their killers to
justice."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said "these appalling
assaults on members of our own State Department family are, sadly,
part of a growing tragedy besetting many communities in Mexico."
"They underscore the imperative of our continued commitment to
work closely with the Government of President Calderon to cripple
the influence of trafficking organizations at work in Mexico," she
added. "This is a responsibility we must shoulder together."
---
Associated Press writers Philip Elliott in Washington and Terry
Wallace in Dallas contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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