Gunbattles stir panic in 2 Mexican border cities

The US Consulate in Nuevo Laredo warned American citizens to stay indoors.

Nuevo Laredo: Mexican soldiers battled gunmen in two cities across the border from Texas on Wednesday, prompting panicked parents to pull children from school and factories to warn workers to stay inside.

Assailants in a third city threw a grenade at an Army barracks. The US Consulate in Nuevo Laredo warned American citizens to stay indoors. The statement said there were reports of drug gangs blocking at least one intersection near the consulate in the city across from Laredo, Texas.

The local city government and witnesses reported several more blockades — a new tactic that has emerged in northeastern Mexico, where violence has soared this year amid a split between the Gulf and Zetas drug gangs.

Cartel gunmen frequently use stolen cars and buses to form roadblocks during battles with soldiers. Witnesses in Nuevo Laredo said gunmen forced people from their cars to use the vehicles in the blockades.

Shootouts also erupted in Reynosa, across from McAllen, causing a huge traffic jam in the highway connecting the city with Monterrey and Matamoros.

The local governments of Reynosa and Nuevo Laredo warned residents to stay inside through a series of Twitter and Facebook messages.

By the evening, the Nuevo Laredo government said in a Twitter message that the "situation of risk" had ended, and most of the vehicles blocking the roads had been removed.

The city government also said federal authorities reported no fatalities, but it was unclear if anyone was injured. Officials at the press office of the Mexican Defence Department said they had no immediate information on the shootouts.

Witnesses and reporters at the scene said four shootouts erupted in Nuevo Laredo, including one behind a Walmart store near a residential area.

Bullet casings from assault rifles littered the scene, and at least one house and two cars had bullet holes. Apolinar Rodriguez, a resident of the neighbourhood, said he thought he heard grenade blasts.

"They are fighting with everything they have," he said.

Parents rushed to schools to pick up their children. Factory managers at one industrial parked closed their gates, ordered their workers not to leave and cancelled night shifts.

Meanwhile, assailants hurled a grenade at military barracks in Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville. A Red Cross worker, who asked not to be named for security reasons, said four adults were injured, none seriously. He said they were treated inside the barracks.

Mexico`s northeastern border with Texas has become one of the most violent fronts in an increasingly bloody drug war.

Bureau Report