Drug cartel responsible for deadly Mexico car bomb

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico, (Reuters) – A Mexican drug  cartel was responsible for a cell phone-detonated car bomb that  killed four people in a city on the U.S. border, state security  forces said yesterday.

In the first attack of its kind in Mexico’s drug war, the  explosion tore through a major intersection in Ciudad Juarez  across the border from El Paso, Texas, late on Thursday,  damaging nearby buildings and sending flames into the air.

Federal police blamed La Linea, the armed wing of the  powerful Juarez cartel, for the attack and Mexico’s security  ministry said it was retaliation for the arrest this week of a  Juarez cartel member.

“There were 10 kilos (22 pounds) of explosives, activated  from a distance by a cell phone,” said Enrique Torres, an army  spokesman in Ciudad Juarez, a manufacturing center that has  become one of the world’s deadliest cities over the past two  and a half years.

TV images showed the wreck of a car with just one front  wheel intact and two federal police vehicles charred and on  fire after the blast in the city’s downtown area.

It was not immediately clear what kind of explosive was  used in the attack, which killed two policemen, a doctor and a  rescue worker.

An eyewitness told Reuters the bomb went off as federal  police drove up to help an officer who had been shot and was  being attended to by a paramedic.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon is battling against  surging violence across Mexico after launching his  military-backed crackdown on drug gangs in December 2006. More  than 26,000 people killed.

The violence is worrying Washington and some investors in a  an oil-producing nation with an emerging economy once known for  its political stability next door to the United States.

Two rival drug gangs — the local Juarez cartel and the  Sinaloa cartel led by Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman  — have been  fighting an all-out war in Ciudad Juarez for control of the  drug trade that has killed nearly 6,000 people there in the  past three and a half years.

Hitmen have decapitated people and gunned down rivals in  daylight attacks. But the car bomb was a clear escalation of  the violence, a U.S. law enforcement source told Reuters.

“What you are seeing now is a whole new level of violence.  It’s a vehicle-born Improvised Explosive Device,” said the  source, who is following the investigation closely and did not  want to be named.

“This has raised the bar to a level of violence that Mexico  has not seen yet. It is reminiscent of Colombia … What we are  seeing now is what the military is running into in Iraq and  Afghanistan.”

Graffiti scrawled on a wall near the blast claimed the  attack was the work of the Juarez cartel and warned that “what  occurred … would continue to happen to authorities that carry  on supporting Shorty.”

Mexican authorities arrested Jesus Armando Acosta Guerrero,  who is accused of being a senior member of the Juarez drug  cartel, on Thursday in Ciudad Juarez.

Mexico’s peso pared losses after the bombing, as traders  appeared unfazed. But economists said if drug gangs launched  more car bomb attacks, financial markets could be hit.

“If this is repeated, it could begin to have more of an  impact in economic activity,” said Jimena Zuniga, an economist  at Barclay’s Capital in New York.

Mexico’s peso fell recently after the assassination of a  candidate for governor before July 4 state elections, a rare  case where Mexico’s drug war immediately affected markets.

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