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US issues security alert for Juárez after wave of drug cartel, gang attacks on police

Special Response Team (SRT) within Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) assault vehicle prepares for Operation Pipeline Express. Federal, state and local authorities announced the results of "Operation Pipeline Express," a 17-month multi-agency investigation responsible for dismantling a massive narcotics trafficking organization in the Arizona's western desert. (Paul Caffrey/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

Following a wave of coordinated attacks against police, the U.S. government issued a security alert for U.S. citizens in Juárez and Chihuahua City.

The attacks left at least eight Juárez police officers wounded after gunmen ambushed patrol vehicles, fired at a police station and set a public bus ablaze on Thursday night.

The attacks were carried out by La Linea crime organization and the Mexicles gang, previous rivals who have now become allies, authorities said.

La Linea is another name for the Juárez drug cartel. The Mexicles were aligned with the Sinaloa cartel during the drug-cartel war years a decade ago.

The U.S. Consulate in Juárez issued the security alert on Friday after Thursday’s night of violence.

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“Authorities believe that members of organized criminal groups are carrying out these attacks, which are expected to continue,” the alert stated.

“U.S. government personnel have been advised to avoid police stations and other law enforcement facilities in both cities to the extent possible until further notice.”

The Consulate advised U.S. citizens to be aware of their surroundings at all times, use caution when driving in heavy traffic and at night, drive with doors locked and windows up and be prepared to take alternate routes home.

Juárez Mayor Armando Cabada at a Friday news conference said that the attacks were a “virulent reaction” from drug dealers because of drug and weapon seizures being made by police.

Attacks strike Juárez police

Juárez police seized an arsenal, drugs and arrested a dozen alleged members of La Linea and the Mexicles suspected of being involved in the attacks, officials said.

A suspect identified only as Luis Santiago E.C., 35, nicknamed “El Miclo,” an alleged Mexicles gang leader, was among those arrested, police said.

There were six attacks Thursday, starting with a shooting at 2:53 p.m. that wounded three officers in the Tierra Nueva area of eastern Juárez, Cabada said.

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At about 3:15 p.m., shooters opened fire on police, wounding a policewoman, who was hospitalized in critical condition, officials said.

Another female officer could be heard screaming for help, saying they have been attacked and her partner had been shot in a recording of a police radio transmission posted on the Diario de Juárez website.

At 3:40 p.m., police thwarted another attack on an officer in the downtown area, officials said.

About an hour later, four officers were wounded in a shooting in the eastern part of the city, followed by gunshots fired at a police station about an half hour afterward.

The wounded officers were reported to be hospitalized in stable condition.

Several suspected sicarios, or hit men, were arrested after gunmen opened fire on a patrol vehicle shortly before 8 p.m. in the Salvarcar area in eastern Juárez.

Passenger bus set ablaze

In a brazen display, gang members allegedly set fire to a public transport bus used to block a street as a distraction during the Thursday night attacks, police said.

The bus driver told Channel 32-XHJCI that men with guns forced their way on board at a bus stop, robbed the passenger and then ordered the driver to turn the bus to block the street.

The gunmen poured gasoline on the bus and passengers, who were then ordered out before the vehicle was set on fire, the driver told XHJCI.

A video, titled “Police Nightmare Night,” shared by La Polaka.com tabloid news website shows the bus in flames on a street.

Mexican drug cartels have been known to utilize buses, semi-trucks and other large vehicles in street blockades during battles but the tactic has not been common in Juárez.

There have been more than 60 homicides in Juárez already this month, according to a tally kept by Channel 44-XHIJ. There were more than 1,200 killings last year.

Violence has also been raging in other parts of Chihuahua state.

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© 2019 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.