Authorities have blamed conflict over local drug markets for a bloody massacre at a drug treatment center in Mexico, the latest example of violence fueled by Mexico's fragmented criminal landscape.
On September 26, half a dozen men armed with AK-47s invaded a rehabilitation center in the state of Chihuahua and indiscriminately slaughtered 15 people, Excelsior reported.
The Chihuahua State Attorney's Office announced during a September 27 press conference that the Barrio Azteca gang was thought to be responsible for the massacre.
Authorities' working theory at this early stage of the investigation is that the killings were spurred by a turf war between two gangs reportedly working as cartel subcontractors: Barrio Azteca, also known as "Los Aztecas," which is tied to the Juárez Cartel, and the "Mexicles," which is linked to the Sinaloa Cartel. Both gangs appear to be vying for control of the local drug market.
Officials also suspect Barrio Azteca of being behind a spate of deadly attacks in bars that have bloodied Chihuahua in recent months. The last incident occurred four days before the rehab center massacre, leaving five dead in a nightclub.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is currently offering a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to the arrest of Barrio Azteca leader Eduardo Ravelo, who has a place on the FBI's "Top Ten Most Wanted List."
InSight Crime Analysis
The recent series of bloody attacks is consistent with the particularly violent history of Barrio Azteca, which allegedly received training from the infamous Zetas, the crime group created largely by deserting members of Mexico's military special forces.
Among past massacres was a prison riot instigated by Barrio Azteca that left 20 dead in Ciudad Juárez in 2009. The targets of that attack were none other than incarcerated Mexicles members, the Los Angeles Times reported.
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Although authorities consider Barrio Azteca an armed wing of the Juárez Cartel, the gang appears to have gained considerable autonomy in recent years, in large part thanks to microtrafficking activities that produce roughly half its earnings.
But the recent bloody incident at the rehab center is more than just the latest tit-for-tat in a long-running war. It is also an illustration of how, with more than 40 gangs and nine cartels, Mexico's fragmented criminal landscape has contributed to violence as these groups jockey for control of strategic resources. As InSight Crime previously reported, conflict over the local drug trade in Chihuahua -- rather than international trafficking routes -- has been blamed for rising violence in the state.