Sean Holstege, Arizona Republic, May 17, 2007
A pre-dawn attack by dozens of heavily armed commandos in the mining town of Cananea, about 20 miles south of the Arizona border, left at least four local police dead Wednesday.
Police tracked the group into nearby hills and killed 15 armed assailants in a gunbattle later in the day. A police officer who had been seized earlier in the day was freed during the gunbattle, along with Cananea residents who had been abducted, Sonora state police said.
Hours after the attack, the latest in a wave of border violence associated with drug cartels, Sonora’s governor revealed that police in Cananea and Agua Prieta were being investigated involving corruption allegations. He called for more help from Mexico’s intelligence agencies. advertisement
Early Wednesday, 40 gunmen in a convoy of 15 trucks kidnapped several police officials and two civilians, a woman at a gas station and someone inside a hotel, according to official accounts.
Hours later, officials found four police shot dead near the highway to Bacoachi. About 50 bullet casings surrounded their corpses. Officials also found two officers severely beaten but alive.
The latest attack left officials on both sides of the border worried.
“This is just another stark reminder of how violent the drug traffickers have become,” said Ramona Sanchez, Drug Enforcement Administration spokeswoman. “Are they being more brazen and ruthless? Yes.”
Authorities have re-established order in the small down, [Sonora Gov. Eduardo] Bours said. He is scheduled to meet with Mexico’s interior secretary today about the security problem.
Increasingly, that violence is becoming more gruesome, as the rival Sinaloa and Gulf cartels battle over smuggling routes and react to Calderón’s use of the military to stamp out the drug trade.
The Tijuana and Mexico City killings came on the same day a severed head was dumped at an army base in Veracruz state. All events came one day after Calderón promised to send troops there. A note left with the head was signed “Z-40,” a signal from cartel enforcers called the Zetas.
In Sonora, Bours said he has also asked the attorney general to investigate the Agua Prieta police. Last month, a reporter in the border town near Douglas was kidnapped in front of the police station, where Police Chief Ramon Tacho Verdugo had been gunned down two months earlier.
Bours said he wanted Agua Prieta police investigated because Tacho had led the Cananea department. Tacho’s former second-in-command is now in charge.