MEXICO CITY -- For the second time in two months, the Mexican border city of Juarez is reeling from a harrowing massacre, the victims this time a religious family of eight, including three children, whose bound, lifeless bodies were found with multiple stab wounds, according to state officials and local media reports.
The victims, discovered Sunday, include two girls, ages 4 and 6; a 7-year-old boy; three women, ages 25, 30 and 60; and two men, ages 30 and 40, according to the Chihuahua prosecutor's office. As of Monday, no suspects had been detained.
The newspaper El Diario reported that the dead, who had been bound and gagged with packing tape, were members of a Jehovah's Witness group. Fellow congregation members stumbled onto the crime scene when they stopped by the family's house to check on them after they had failed to show up for Sunday religious services, the paper reported.
Friends of the family also found a 3-month-old baby girl in the house who had been spared in the assault, according to media reports.
The gruesome discovery, combined with a Sept. 22 shooting that left 10 dead at a suburban house party, is likely to amplify the debate about the tenuous security gains Juarez has enjoyed in recent months.
Four years ago, the city was ranked, by some measures, as the most violent in the world, due in large part to a running turf war between the Sinaloa and Juarez drug cartels. In 2009, a homicide occurred on average about every three hours, and a quarter of the population fled the city.
The Mexican federal government, led by then-President Felipe Calderon, sent in thousands of troops, and intensified a massive security and social-programs push after another massacre on Jan. 31, 2010, in which 15 celebrants at a house party were slain by gunmen, sparking a national outrage.
Last year saw a significant decline in slayings. Officials have been touting the influence of new classrooms, programs for troubled youth, and upgraded tools and training for police -- some of which was funded by the U.S. government.
But many suspect that the decline is due largely to the Sinaloa cartel's victory over its rivals.
It was unclear if the latest massacre was connected to drug cartel activity. But for many residents, the immediate focus was not on the motives, but on the human toll.
"Who in the hell ... would assassinate three kids?" wrote one commenter on the El Diario website. "Not even irrational beasts would do such a thing."