8 men gunned down in one stroke.
MEXICO CITY -- Twenty people were killed in apparent drug-related violence - most of them in Mexico's two most violent cities, Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana - on the same day authorities announced that the rate of kidnappings and homicides has fallen in recent months.
The single bloodiest incident on Friday occurred in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, when a group of armed assailants entered a seafood restaurant and killed eight men, officials told Efe.
Eyewitnesses said the assailants were wearing hoods when they entered the establishment, which is located on a main thoroughfare near an international border crossing. They located the group of people they were after inside the restaurant, threw them to the ground and riddled them with automatic fire.
Ciudad Juarez is Mexico's most violent city, accounting for more than 1,000 of the roughly 5,000 organized-crime-related homicides registered nationwide this year.
Five other people also were killed Friday in that same gritty metropolis, also in violence attributed to warring drug gangs, and the dead body of a teenager showing signs of having been tortured was also found.
Ciudad Juarez has garnered international notoriety because of the slayings - most of them unsolved - of more than 400 women since 1993,
Separately, six people, including a municipal police officer, were killed Friday in the border cities of Tijuana and Ensenada, located in the northwestern state of Baja California.
Among the victims was municipal police officer Alan Bernal Estrada, who at the time of his death was not on duty in the commercial area to which he had been assigned, the same officials told Efe.
Bernal Estrada was riddled with bullets fired by several armed assailants near a residential district in eastern Tijuana known as El Murua, which has been under army and federal police protection since Nov. 18.
Analysts say cartels are battling each other for control of drugs and weapons corridors in the border state of Chihuahua, where Ciudad Juarez is located.
Meanwhile, in Tijuana, also located near the border with the United States, rival factions of the Arellano Felix cartel have been engaging in a brutal war for control of that drug mob following the killing or arrests of several kingpins or top lieutenants over the past six years.
The spate of killings occurred on the same day in which members of President Felipe Calderon's administration, the governors of the country's 32 states and members of the judicial and legislative branches presented data indicating security advances in recent months.
The results were unveiled in Mexico City during a National Public Safety Council meeting, a gathering that had been scheduled when governors, mayors and federal officials signed a national security accord in August to battle violent crime amid a public uproar over the wave of homicides afflicting the country.
According to data presented at the meeting, kidnappings have fallen 18 percent and homicides are down 6.9 percent since the signing of the so-called National Accord for Security, Justice and Legality, which calls for rooting out corruption in law enforcement and the judiciary, building more secure prisons, better managing spending on public safety and requiring the registration of all cellphones.
During the same three-month period, authorities dismantled 53 kidnapping gangs and freed 184 hostages.
Despite the progress, Calderon acknowledged that much more remains to be done and said his government is aware of the "desperation of many Mexicans who have been the victims of violence in the country and have not had a response" from authorities.
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 and Sinaloa.
Shortly after taking office in late 2006, Calderon deployed tens of thousands of army soldiers and federal police officers across the country, although this has not yet put a dent in the violence.
A big part of the problem, according to experts, is the drug mobs' ability to buy off the police and even high-ranking prosecutors.
Mexico's federal Attorney General's Office recently has been investigating itself, particularly the SIEDO organized crime unit and the Agencia Federal de Investigaciones, Mexico's FBI.
As part of the probe, begun after a protected informant revealed links between drug cartel kingpins and police, a dozen high-ranking officials, including erstwhile drug czar Noe Ramirez, have been arrested.
According to the initial investigation, Ramirez received $500,000 a month for sharing intelligence with drug lords. EFE