TIJUANA, MEXICO -- Gunmen suspected of working for organized crime groups killed three men in the Mexican border city of Tijuana, while another group of hired guns left funeral wreaths with threats aimed at police chiefs in the northern city of Hermosillo, officials said.
Mario Arnulfo Meza Reyes, 27, and Jose de Jesus Perez Castaņeda, 28, were gunned down on a street in Tijuana's Libertad neighborhood, the Attorney General's Office in Baja California state, where the border city is located, said.
The body of an unidentified man who had been shot in the head was found in Tijuana's La Morita II district, the AG's office said.
Over the weekend, gunmen killed more than a dozen people in Tijuana, and some 650 people have been murdered in the border city, which is near San Diego, California, this year.
In Hermosillo, the capital of neighboring Sonora state, police found six funeral wreaths at different locations bearing threats against police commanders, the Sonora AG's office said.
The threats were signed by "Los Zetas," a group of army special forces veterans and deserters who initially worked as hitmen for the Gulf cartel and took over the criminal organization when its leaders were arrested.
"The 'narcowreaths' were left by unidentified individuals at different public places in the city during the early morning hours" of Monday, the AG's office said, without identifying who the threats were made against.
Mexican drug cartel gunmen use different methods to intimidate officials and rival traffickers, such as leaving threatening messages on bodies or in public places.
Mexico has been plagued in recent years by drug-related violence, with powerful cartels battling each other and the security forces, as rival gangs vie for control of lucrative smuggling and distribution routes.
Armed groups linked to Mexico's drug cartels murdered around 2,700 people in 2007 and 1,500 in 2006, with the death toll this year already at more than 5,000, according to press tallies.
The majority of the killings have occurred in the states of Chihuahua, Baja California, where Tijuana is located, and Sinaloa.
Experts say that Mexico's most powerful drug trafficking organizations are the Tijuana cartel, which is run by the Arellano Felix brothers, the Gulf cartel and the Sinaloa cartel. Two other large drug trafficking organizations, the Juarez and Milenio cartels, also operate in the country.
The Sinaloa organization is the oldest cartel in Mexico and is led by Joaquin "El Chapo" (Shorty) Guzman, who was arrested in Guatemala in 1993 and pulled off a Hollywood-style jailbreak when he escaped from the Puente Grande maximum-security prison in the western state of Jalisco on Jan. 19, 2001.
Tackling the problem of drug-related violence, according to experts, is a major challenge both because of Mexico's notoriously corrupt security forces and because honest police officers are fearful of taking on the heavily armed drug mobs.
Since taking office in December 2006, President Felipe Calderon has deployed more than 30,000 soldiers and federal police to nearly a dozen of Mexico's 31 states in a bid to stem the wave of violence unleashed by drug traffickers.
The goal of the operation was to regain control of territory controlled by Mexico's drug cartels. EFE