MEXICO CITY – Mexican Drug Cartel (MDC’s) assailants Tuesday gunned down the mother, aunt and siblings of a marine killed in a raid that killed who many believe was Mexico's most powerful cartel leader Arturo Beltran Leyva. Police say that action has sent a chilling message to all Mexico’s troops, Federal Police and all who battle the drug war: It says to them you go after us, we wipe out your, Mothers, Fathers, Sisters, Brothers and your Children and all your family. The families of soldiers and police are now going to suffer for the government's campaign against MDC’s and other drug traffickers it is feared.
The military precision type pre-dawn attack came just hours after the navy honored Mexican Marine Melquisedet Angulo as a national hero at a memorial service for his part in the successful attack on the powerful Arturo Beltran Leyva family which killed the leader.
"The message is very clear: It's to intimidate not only the government but its flesh and blood," said Jorge Chabat, a Mexican expert on drug cartels. "It's to intimidate those in the armed forces so they fear not only for their own lives, but also for the lives of their families."
Tabasco State Attorney General Rafael Gonzalez said gunmen from the Zeta gang were responsible for the killing. He said four Zeta associates pictured above are believed to have had roles in the attack and have been detained. He said these three men and one woman - either served as lookouts for the Zeta hit men involved in the actual slaying or transported money to pay the gunmen. All the triggermen remain at large. The Zetas, former military elite-turned-
The four were paraded before reporters, their names written on white sheets of paper taped to the bullet-proof vests they were wearing.
Mexico's drug gangs frequently employ networks of lookouts and informants to perform logistics. Police have also been found to be on cartel payrolls, and Gonzalez later told the news media that some officers may have allowed - or helped - the assailants escape after Tuesday's attack on the family home in the Gulf coast state of Tabasco.
Cartels sometimes stage retaliatory hits on military or law enforcement after the arrests or killings of top traffickers. In Tabasco, they had previously made two such attacks on police officers and their families.
State officials said they are on alert for possibly more reprisals for Beltran Leyva's death.
Mexico's National Human Rights Commission on Wednesday questioned the policy of releasing the names of soldiers and police who have died fighting drug cartels. The government commission suggested officials respect their right to privacy.
Dozens of troops and police guarded the funeral of Angulo's four relatives Wednesday, blocking public access to the cemetery in Tabasco.
The cartel's violent rage may have been further stoked this time by graphic photos published in local and international news media of Beltran Leyva's bullet-riddled body following the gunbattle with marines at an apartment in Cuernavaca, south of Mexico City.
The photos showed Beltran Leyva with his pants pulled down to his knees and blood-soaked money strewn over his corpse.
Six forensics workers of the state medical examiner's office have been suspended and are under investigation for manipulating a crime scene, according to the attorney general's office in the central state of Morelos, where Beltran Leyva was killed.
The office said Wednesday that the six could be fired, banned from working for the government and fined for misconduct. But no criminal charges are expected.
More than 15,000 people have been killed by this bloody civil war since Calderon's military-led crackdown against organized crime began in late 2006.
Later Wednesday, eight bodies were found in three clandestine graves south of Chilpancingo, capital of the Pacific coast state of Guerrero. The state has been a major battleground for warring cartels, including the Beltran Leyva gang.
Federal officials had warned last week's killing of drug lord Arturo Beltran Leyva, known as the "boss of bosses," could provoke a violent backlash from Mexican Drug cartels fighting the government forces. These gangs have gone after Mexican solders and Mexican Federal Police in the past following the arrest of high-ranking MDC members.
Beltran Leyva was among the most-wanted drug lords in Mexico and the United States, and was the biggest trafficker taken down by President Felipe Calderon's administration so far. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials blamed his cartel for much of the bloodshed across Mexico.
Even so, the country and the world was shocked by the brutal slayings of Angulo's family at their home just hours after the fallen marine's mother, Irma Cordova, 55, attended his memorial service in Mexico City, where she received the Mexican flag covering his coffin.
His brother, Benito Angulo, 28, his sister, Jolidabey Angulo, 22, and aunt, Josefa Angulo, 46, also were killed shortly after midnight when gunmen wielding assault rifles broke down the door of their home. His sister, who was believed wounded Miraldeyi Angulo, 24, was reported in serious condition at a near by hospital.
The family's home in southern Tabasco state was littered with more than two dozen bullet casings.
The Calderon administration did not indicate to the press whether or not they were taking special measures to protect crime fighters and their families, including Angulo's two children, ages 3 years and 16 months. Authorities did not say where they or their mother were when their relatives were slain.
Calderon called the attack "a cowardly act" and vowed to press forward in his war involving more than 50,000 troops.
"We will not be intimidated by criminals without scruples like those who committed this barbarity," he said Tuesday. "Those who act like this deserve the unanimous repudiation of society and they must pay for their crime."
Angulo, 30, was the only marine killed in the Dec. 16 raid that sparked a nearly two-hour shootout at an apartment complex in the colonial city of Cuernavaca, south of Mexico City. However two other marines were wounded and a number of unidentified gang members.
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