U.S. closes Nuevo Laredo consulate temporarily after assailants attack homes | VailDaily.com

U.S. closes Nuevo Laredo consulate temporarily after assailants attack homes

NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico – The United States is closing its consulate in this violence-wracked border city for a week following a shootout in which assailants used machine guns, grenades and even a rocket launcher to attack a home, the U.S. Ambassador said Friday evening.In a statement from Mexico City, Tony Garza said “in light of this alarming incident and continued violence along the border, I have decided to suspend all operations except for emergency services for American citizens,” for one week beginning Aug. 1.He said temporarily closing the consulate would allow officials to “access the security situation for our employees, American travelers to the region, and visitors to the consulate” and that during that time “we will be gauging what should be a swift and certain response from the government of Mexico, to bring this situation under control.”Garza’s announcement came three days after the ambassador requested the renewal of a U.S. State Department travel advisory warning Americans about violence in Mexico, especially along the U.S. border.Late Thursday, a group of armed men arriving in several vehicles used machine guns and explosives to attack a home on Mexicali street in southern Nuevo Laredo.People inside the house are believed to have returned fire with powerful weapons of their own, triggering a massive shootout.No one was injured and no arrests were made. It was unclear why the home was targeted, though witnesses said it was a safe house used by drug smugglers.Fire from what witnesses said was a rocket launcher caused part of the home to collapse and the walls left standing were marked with hundreds of bullet holes. A vehicle had been driven into the door of the adjacent garage.The battle left a residential street resembling a war zone. Grenades were strewn about the scene, and soldiers who moved in to recover them said they had been lobbed at the home and exploded.A state policeman who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals said investigators found the photographs of 14 municipal police officers and a list of officials “sentenced to death” at the home.The officer didn’t reveal the names of the officers but said each photo had their names and nicknames, what post they have at the police department and maps with their home addresses.Authorities also recovered three AK-47 rifles, two handguns, a grenade, ski masks, and hundreds of bullets of different caliber.Several hours after that shootout, assailants sprayed another house, this one in the Madero neighborhood, one of the richest areas in Nuevo Laredo, with more than 100 bullets from automatic weapons. No injuries were reported, nor arrests made.More than 100 people have been killed in this city across from Laredo, Texas, since January, including 15 municipal police officers. Authorities have blamed the violence on a fight between Mexico’s two most powerful drug gangs to control local smuggling routes across the U.S. border.Last month, Nuevo Laredo’s police chief was gunned down hours after taking office, and municipal police opened fire on a group of federal agents sent in to restore order, forcing President Vicente Fox’s government to launch a purge of local officers.Reacting to the shootouts Friday morning, presidential spokesman Ruben Aguilar said federal efforts to stop the drug-related wave of violence in Nuevo Laredo have been successful despite the ongoing attacks and killings.”This only encourages us to work with greater eagerness, using all the power of the state against organized crime,” Aguilar said.The attacks came two days after hundreds of municipal police officers began patrolling again and six weeks after they were pulled off the streets for background checks and drug testing.Vail, Colorado

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