3,000-strong force moves into Tijuana

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

More than 3,000 soldiers and federal police moved into Tijuana on Tuesday after a bloody weekend gang battle, and authorities said weapons seized after the shootout have been linked to several high-profile killings and assassination attempts.

Several thousand troops and federal police previously deployed by President Felipe Calderon to beef up security here have been unable to stop feuding drug cartels. About 190 people have been killed in Tijuana so far this year.

Authorities found about 60 weapons in the aftermath of Saturday’s gun battles, which left at least 13 gunmen dead. Ballistics tests determined that some had been used in the killings of two immigrant safety officers this year in Tijuana and in last year’s assassination attempt on the police chief of Rosarito Beach.

The arms were also linked to a shootout at a Tijuana restaurant that claimed the lives of two agents and two bystanders, and tied to a bizarre November incident in which gunmen raided the Ensenada morgue to steal the corpse of a suspected cartel leader who had died in the Baja 1000 off-road race.


In all, the weapons were linked to at least nine slayings, authorities said.

Authorities still haven’t determined a motive for the weekend attack, though they suspect it stemmed from a dispute between rival cells of the Arellano Felix drug cartel, which has long controlled drug trafficking in Baja California.

Camouflaged federal troops with machine guns surrounded Tijuana’s main hospital Tuesday as doctors treated eight suspected traffickers wounded in the running gun battle.

Gates were locked, outpatient services were halted, visits from family and friends were severely restricted and anyone without an emergency was told to go elsewhere.


The soldiers hope to prevent cartel gunmen from shooting their way in to rescue their colleagues -- or finish them off. A year ago, a drug gang sent men into the hospital to rescue a wounded criminal, leaving three people dead and hundreds of patients and staff members trapped for hours.