Mexican border cities hit by burning vehicles, blockades

TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — The Mexican border cities of Tijuana and Mexicali along with Rosarito and Ensenada were hit by gang violence that included vehicles being set ablaze and road blockades.

It was the third time this week Mexican cities have seen widespread arson and shootings by drug cartels. The gangs appear to be targeting stores, vehicles and innocent bystanders in response to disputes or attempts to capture gang members.

Baja California state officials said a total of 24 vehicles had been hijacked and burned at different points throughout the state: 15 in Tijuana, three in Rosarito, and two each in Mexicali, Ensenada, and Tecate.

Tijuana Mayor Montserrat Caballero blamed it on disputes between drug gangs and asked them to stop the violence.

Caballero issued a public appeal to "organised crime," the term used in Mexico for drug cartels, to stop the growing trend of targeting innocent civilians.

"Today we are saying to the organised crime groups that are committing these crimes, that Tijuana is going to remain open and take care of its citizens," Caballero said in a video, "and we also ask them to settle their debts with those who didn't pay what they owe, not with families and hard-working citizens."

The extent of the violence was still unclear Saturday.

On Saturday, few people ventured out on the streets in Tijuana and many of the bus and passenger van services stopped running, leaving some residents unable to get where they were going.

"Let them fight it out among themselves, but leave us alone," said Tijuana resident Blanca Estela Fuentes, as she looked for some means of public transport. "So they kill each other, they can do whatever they want, but the public, why are we to blame?"

Later Saturday, Caballero, the Tijuana mayor, said some bus and van routes had resumed service.

The federal public safety department said one person was wounded in the violence and that federal, state and local forces had detained 17 suspects, including seven in Tijuana, and four each in Rosarito and Mexicali.

It said some of the suspects had been identified as members of the Jalisco cartel, the group blamed for burning stores and shooting people earlier this week in the states of Jalisco and Guanajuato.

The area around Tijuana, which borders southern California, is a lucrative drug-trafficking corridor long dominated by the Arellano Felix cartel but which has since become a battle ground between various gangs, including the Jalisco and Sinaloa cartels.

The mayor's comment about Tijuana remaining open was an apparent reference to the border city of Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, where some classes and public events were cancelled after similar violence on Thursday.

Alleged gang members killed nine people, including four employees of a radio station, in Ciudad Juarez after a fight between rival gangs at a local prison left two inmates dead.

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