Gunmen Kill 11 in North Mexico Rehab Center

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Gunmen killed 11 people, wounding at least nine others, at a church-run drug rehab facility in Torreon, north Mexico, a year after 13 died in a massacre at another center in the city.

Police said gunmen with AR-15 assault rifles and nine millimeter handguns burst into the “Your Life on the Rock” drug rehabilitation center in Torreon on Sunday night, killing 11 and wounding at least nine, AFP reported. A police source told the news service the gunmen arrived in two pickup trucks.

Following the attacks, soldiers and police officers stood guard outside the hospital where the survivors of the attack were being treated, to ensure hitmen did not return to eliminate witnesses.

The state prosecutor of Coahuila, the border state where Torreon is located, said at least one of the survivors had a criminal record, reported Milenio.

InSight Crime Analysis

Although Torreon has long been a center of drug trafficking activity, it was one of the safer cities in north Mexico until 2007, when the Zetas launched an effort to take control from the dominant Sinaloa Cartel. Since then drug violence has shot up, with three separate massacres carried out in bars in 2010, apparently launched to punish owners for ties to the Zetas.

Attacks on rehab centers are a common occurence in Mexico. In June 2011 gunmen shot dead 13 patients and workers at another center in Torreon. The worst to date was a June 2010 attack on a facility in Chihuahua city, in Chihuahua state which borders on Coahuila, leaving 19 dead.

Traffickers target rehabilitation centers for a variety of reasons. First, these facilites can serve as a source of recruits; this can lead to violence as groups either intimidate addicts into joining, or attack facilities that are feeding personnel to rivals.

Addicts may also be targeted in retribution attacks, by rival groups seeking to settle scores or old employers looking to eliminate members who are trying to go straight, and may be talking to police.

There are cases of rehab centers actually being managed by cartels. The Familia Michoacana, now thought to be virtually defunct, reportedly placed addicts into strict training programs in rehab centers, executing those who failed to clean up.

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