Mexico drug violence kills 40 in 24 hours

Sarah Gallagher
3 September 2009

The latest in a series of violent attacks by drug cartels saw patients of a rehabilitation clinic lined up in a corridor and shot dead in the border town on Ciudad Juarez. It is thought that seventeen people were killed in the attack. Ciudad Juarez borders El Paso in Texas and is a key town on a drug smuggling route into the US. It is thought to be the most dangerous city in Mexico, with three hundred deaths from drug related violence in August alone. Gangs are reported to be targeting rehabilitation centres accused of protecting rival dealers. The attack follows Wednesday's murder of the recently appointed deputy police chief in Michoacan state, Western Mexico. The deputy had only been in post for two weeks when his car was intercepted by heavily armed men.

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The ToD verdict: The forty killed in attacks in the last 24 hours demonstrates the difficulty that President Felipe Calderon's strategy of escalating military and police action against the drug gangs is facing. The latest violence paints a daunting picture of Mexico's security situation, one seemingly out of kilter with the president's more upbeat assessment given in his state of union address on Wednesday. Recent arrests of former security personnel demonstrate just how far the drug cartels have infiltrated into the fabric of Mexico's society.

Following recognition earlier this year that Mexico's drug problem was also a US problem, the US released a $214 million package to support Calderon's fight against the cartels. It is yet to be seen whether this latest initiative will help quell the increasingly bloody violence that plagues the country but, given that the money is to be spent over three years, it seems unlikely that it will have a great immediate impact on the lives of ordinary Mexican's faced with daily violence. Frustrations have already had an impact on the president's political ambitions, with the opposition winning the majority of congress in mid-term elections in July.

Killings in Yemen's North as UN makes humanitarian appeal

Yemeni military authorities announced today that they had killed eleven Shiite rebels in the  north of the country. The rebels were killed during fighting which, the authorities say, saw the capture of five rebel hideouts. The killings follow yesterday's warning by the rebels of a "long war" after the government rejected a truce which, they claimed, contained nothing new. Meanwhile the UN launched an urgent appeal yesterday for funds to help an estimated 150,000 people who have been displaced by the war. The rebels are members of the Shiite Zaydi sect and say they are fighting for freedom against government oppression.

Top Afghan security chief killed in blast

The deputy chief of intelligence, Abdullah Laghmani, was killed in a suicide bomb attack outside a mosque on Wednesday. At least 23 others are also thought to have been killed in the attack. More government officials may be among the dead. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack, which may highlight their ability to disrupt the governance of the country. Laghmani was likely targeted because he was known as an active figure in the fight against insurgent networks.

Votes are still being counted in the bitterly disputed election, about which more than 200 complaints have been lodged. The contested credibility of the election may well overshadow a meeting of 26 nations on strategy in Afghanistan held in Paris today.

Sit in Protest as Gabon awaits election results

Supporters of the main opposition party have occupied a square in the capital, Libreville, as Gabon awaits the results of Sunday's election.  Although the protests are not expected to turn violent, the square is being watched by soldiers equipped with tear gas launchers. The late president's son, Ali Ben Bongo, has already declared himself the victor in the elections but results are not expected until later today and it far from clear that Bongo will succeed his father who ruled the country for more than forty years. Three other candidates followed Bongo's lead and each declared themselves the winner. It is yet to be seen whether tensions will rise in the aftermath of the elections, which, so far, have only been marred by accusations of media censorship.

Peru soldiers killed by Shining Path rebels

Two Peruvian soldiers have reportedly been killed when their helicopter was shot down by Shining Path rebels. The attack was apparently in retaliation for the government's attempts to capture their leader. The Shining Path rebels used to be a formidable guerrilla Maoist group but are now thought to be mainly involved in drug trafficking. Drug trafficking has increased in Peru recently and the country looks set to rival Colombia as one of the largest producers of coca. Colombia recently agreed to the expansion of US military bases to help in the drug war but a recent radio report that Peru was considering a similar partnership was swiftly denied by Peru's defense minister.

Hypodermic needle stabbings prompt further Xinjiang violence

Protests have been reported in Xinxiang following news that people infected with HIV were stabbing pedestrians with hypodermic needles. The protesters, mostly Han Chinese, were calling for the resignation of Xinxiang's top official following discontent with the worsening security situation, which they blame on the Uighur population. However, China Daily reported that nine ethnic groups, including Uighurs, were victims of the attacks for which 15 people have been arrested. A spokesman for the World Uighur Congress suggested in one report that Uighurs were being beaten up in the protests, which he claimed the authorities were allowing to continue in a bid to intentionally increase the tensions between the two groups.

Also this week, in a move which is likely only to increase tensions further, the head of the World Uighur Congress, Rebiyah Kadeer, appeared at a session of the European Human Rights Committee on Tuesday to seek assistance in pressurising the Chinese authorities into talks on the autonomy of ‘East Turkestan'. Chinese state media reported her speech as ‘falling flat'. The continuing fractious relationship between the two sides would suggest that these further protests in Xinxiang are unlikely to abate quickly.

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