CIUDAD JUAREZ, MEXICO – At least 20 people have been slain in the northern state of Chihuahua since federal officials promised two days ago to send more troops to this border region that has become the main battlefield of Mexico's drug war.
The latest round of bloodshed began just hours after a meeting here in which the Mexican interior, defense and public safety ministers vowed to "notably" increase the number of soldiers and federal police in Chihuahua.
Since April 2008, roughly 2,500 troops and federal agents have been deployed in Chihuahua to conduct operations against drug cartels and other organized-crime elements, and Mexico City dailies El Universal and Milenio suggest the federal contingent in the state may be tripled.
Sources in the Chihuahua state Attorney General's Office say that in the 36 hours following the announcement of federal reinforcements, six men were killed in various parts of Ciudad Juarez, which lies just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.
The Chihuahua press reported that three other men, two of them the owners of a used-car lot, were slain in the city of Delicias, and that three bodies were found Friday in the mountains bearing signs of torture.
In Parral, a town in the southern part of the state, four men were abducted and then shot execution-style, sources in the municipal police said.
Three more bodies were dumped on a street in Chihuahua city, the state capital, and a man was fatally shot on one of the city's main thoroughfares, the state AG's office said.
More than 400 people have been murdered in Chihuahua so far this year, on top of the 1,900 homicides registered in 2008.
All but 300 of last year's slayings took place in and around Ciudad Juarez, Mexico's most dangerous city.
Armed groups linked to Mexico's drug cartels murdered around 2,700 people nationwide in 2007 and 1,500 in 2006, with the 2008 death toll soaring to 5,630. More than 1,000 more have died since Jan. 1.
Since taking office in December 2006, President Felipe Calderon has deployed more than 30,000 soldiers and federal police to the hardest-hit states in a bid to curb the mayhem, yet the pace of the killing has only accelerated. EFE