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Mystery bomb seen as plot by cartel

Times Staff Writer

Authorities on Tuesday accused drug traffickers of attempting to kill a top Mexico City police official last week by blowing up his car, a botched assassination that left the bomber dead.

The unfolding mystery of the attack, which also left a suspected accomplice severely wounded, has fascinated Mexicans for days. Investigators have used surveillance video and forensic anthropology to reconstruct the plot.

“The investigation is very advanced; we know the target was a high official of the Public Safety Ministry,” Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said, referring to the agency that oversees police here. “We will not allow them to intimidate us.”

The bomber accidentally set off the device Friday afternoon on Chapultepec Avenue near the Zona Rosa, the city’s central tourist district. He was about 300 yards from his target: the police official’s car, which was parked in the lot near the city’s police headquarters.

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The device, made of the plastic explosive C-4, blew off both of the bomber’s hands and part of one leg, and shook much of the city center, breaking windows.

“When I heard the explosion, I grabbed my grandson and ran,” said Lourdes Trejo, 50, whose nearby apartment building was evacuated. “These people have no heart. How can they do these things that can hurt so many people?”

Investigators have declined to name the official who was being targeted. El Universal newspaper reported Tuesday that the target was Luis Rosales Gamboa, a deputy chief said to be responsible for several large busts and weapons seizures that have hit hard at the Sinaloa drug trafficking cartel and its interests in Mexico City.

On Feb. 13, Mexico City police seized a large weapons cache in a home in the working-class neighborhood of Portales, arresting seven suspected members of the Sinaloa cartel.

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Authorities identified the bomber Monday as Juan Manuel Meza Campos, alias El Pipen. According to one news report, Meza Campos may have been under the influence of drugs at the time of the failed attack. The bomb exploded in his hands.

A 22-year-old woman, Tania Vazquez, was seriously injured by the explosion, and police suspect she was an accomplice.

Police released surveillance video that they said showed Vazquez walking with Meza Campos along Chapultepec Avenue, not far from the site of the blast.

After talking to two other people who authorities say are also suspects, Vazquez and the suspected bomber walk off arm in arm, toward the site of the explosion, about two blocks away.

“My daughter is neither a terrorist nor a drug trafficker,” Vazquez’s mother, Luz Maria Munoz, told reporters.

Authorities said Vazquez was a neighbor and collaborator of Rogelio Mena, the alleged drug kingpin of this city’s Tepito district, who also goes by the nickname El Chilango. He is said to be allied with the Sinaloa traffickers.

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hector.tobar@latimes.com

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Cecilia Sanchez of The Times’ Mexico City Bureau contributed to this report.


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