March 7, 2006

Police chief killed in Mexico drug war city

NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico (Reuters) - Suspected drug hitmen with
assault rifles killed a police chief on Tuesday in a shootout
that left two others dead in this crime-ridden city on the
U.S.-Mexican border, police said.

Victor Berrones, head of one of several police forces in
the northern state of Tamaulipas, was gunned down when he went
to the aid of a patrol car ambushed on a busy road in broad
daylight, state police spokesman Hector Ovalle told Reuters.

He said another police officer and a man dressed in
civilian clothes, who may have been one of the attackers, also
died. Earlier, police sources and witnesses said four people
died in the clash, including a deputy head of a state police

The killings took place in broad daylight on a highway
leading to the airport in Nuevo Laredo, across the Rio Grande
from Laredo, Texas.

It was the latest murder of a senior policeman in the city,
despite Mexican President Vicente Fox sending hundreds of
troops and police last year to quell a drug feud.

The policemen and their attackers fought for 15 minutes in
a shootout that spilled over into an auto dealership and left
bodies strewn on the ground.

Ovalle said the attackers traveled in sport utility
vehicles and fired assault rifles on the patrol car, which
called for help over the radio.

More than 40 people have been killed in Nuevo Laredo this
year in a fight over smuggling routes between the local Gulf
cartel and an alliance of drug traffickers from the western
state of Sinaloa.

The city's public security chief Alejandro Dominguez was
shot dead in June, hours after taking office. That murder
prompted the government to increase security forces in Nuevo
Laredo and suspend the entire municipal police force while the
government investigated alleged links between police and drug