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Cross-Border Drug Gang Turns Into Sophisticated Paramilitary Killing Machine

The Barrio Azteca gained added notoriety when it was named as the culprit behind the recent killings of three people tied to the U.S. Consulate in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juarez. They’ve been going at it quite some time. With drug money behind them, the U.S. and Mexico have a very daunting task before them. Are both countries up to the task?

Barrio Azteca/doj photo

Barrio Azteca/doj photo

By William Booth
Washington Post Foreign Service

CIUDAD JUAREZ, MEXICO — A cross-border drug gang born in the prison cells of Texas has evolved into a sophisticated paramilitary killing machine that U.S. and Mexican officials suspect is responsible for thousands of assassinations here, including the recent ambush and slaying of three people linked to the U.S. consulate.

The heavily tattooed Barrio Azteca gang members have long operated across the border in El Paso, dealing drugs and stealing cars. But in Ciudad Juarez, the organization now specializes in contract killing for the Juarez drug cartel. According to U.S. law enforcement officers, it may have been involved in as many as half of the 2,660 killings in the city in the past year.

El Paso/istock photo

El Paso/istock photo

Officials on both sides of the border have watched as the Aztecas honed their ability to locate targets, stalk them and finally strike in brazen ambushes involving multiple chase cars, coded radio communications, coordinated blocking maneuvers and disciplined firepower by masked gunmen in body armor. Afterward, the assassins vanish, back to safe houses in the Juarez barrios or across the bridge to El Paso.

To read full story click here.


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