Shooting shuts down Juarez airport, leaves car-rental employee wounded

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Mayor of Chihuahua town was target of hit squad, days after his son was murdered, police say

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — On Monday, the son of the mayor of Ahumada was shot to death as he waited for an Uber driver outside Juarez International Airport.

On Wednesday night, several gunmen tried to kill his father as the mayor of the town 70 miles south of Juarez and his wife prepared to take a flight to bury his son in their native Sinaloa state, a top law enforcement official said.

The latter shooting shut down the airport for several hours, left a rental car employee with a bullet in his stomach and caused a 62-year-old woman to have a fatal heart attack, Juarez authorities said.

The mayor, Juan de Dios Valle Camacho and his wife, were uninjured in the firefight between the group of assailants and members of Mexico’s National Guard assigned to the airport, Chihuahua Attorney General Cesar Augusto Peniche said Thursday in Juarez.

The hit squad arrived at 6:46 p.m. in three vehicles that parked in the passenger drop-off area — a red Nissan Rogue, a gray Ram pickup and a tan Chevrolet van — and proceeded to terminal doors 1 and 2, according to a copy of a police report obtained by Border Report.

The men began shooting, apparently at Valle Camacho, injuring an airport car rental agency employee and causing a panic in the airport waiting area. However, a large number of National Guard troops happened to be at the airport due to shift change and they immediately opened fire at the assailants, police said.

The report states that the gunmen fled back to their vehicles and left. An ensuing pursuit by Juarez police led to the seizure of the Ram, the Nissan and the Chevrolet in three different parts of the city. No arrests were made. Shells from 7.62mm AK-47 style rifle and .223-caliber AR-15 rifle as well as 9mm and .40-caliber shells were recovered at the airport.

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The deceased woman was identified as Virginia Castro Aquino, 62. The injured employee is Gustavo Caballero Arreola, 38. He was taken to Juarez’s Red Cross Hospital, the report states.

“We will continue the investigation to see who is responsible for this attack. (The mayor) is safe and back with his family,” Peniche said.

The top lawman of a state in Mexico that borders both Texas and New Mexico declined to say if the attackers were members of a drug cartel.

The Chihuahua countryside has been fraught with violence in the past few months as two rival drug cartels — Sinaloa and La Linea — fight for drug-staging routes to the United States. That fight spilled over to neighboring Sonora state in November, when La Linea members allegedly gunned down nine U.S. citizens from the Mormon settlement of LeBaron, Chihuahua near the highway to Agua Prieta, Sonora.

In Juarez, the violence has reached levels not seen since the Sinaloa cartel a decade ago wiped out the Juarez cartel and took control of the city. Just in the first five days of March, 33 people have been murdered in Juarez, according to the Chihuahua state police.

The latest spike coincides with the transfer of alleged “Mexicles” gang leader Eduardo “El Lalo” Soto from the Juarez jail where he was still operating, according to Chihuahua officials, to a federal penitentiary in southern Mexico.

Security experts in the United States identify the Mexicles as street muscle for the Sinaloa cartel. Some of those experts say that La Linea, the remnants of the old Juarez cartel, are making a comeback after brokering a deal with the powerful Cartel Jalisco New Generation, which is quickly — and violently — expanding throughout Mexico.

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