Mexico increases airport security following robberies

March 4, 2009
Federal, local police assigned to improve security at Mexico City's international airport

MEXICO CITY_More than 800 federal and local police have been assigned to improve security in and around Mexico City's international airport after a series of armed robberies against travelers who exchanged money there, authorities announced Monday.

Mexico City Attorney General Miguel Mancera said 460 additional city police officers have been assigned to patrol the areas surrounding the airport. Federal police have added 350 new agents to the airport since December, said Federal Police Commissioner Rodrigo Esparza.

At least 18 people have been robbed recently outside the airport. They apparently were followed after doing business at the currency exchanges inside, according to city prosecutors.

Five of the victims were foreigners, including a French scientist who was shot and killed in January after assailants intercepted his car and stole 4,800 euros ($6,336).

The government also deployed 700 extra federal police Monday to Ciudad Juarez, a city bordering Texas where local police have been overwhelmed by drug violence. The police joined 3,200 federal troops who arrived in the city over the weekend.

Meanwhile in the western state of Michoacan, attackers threw grenades at a city police chief's house and a police station on Monday in the city of Uruapan, injuring four officers, a state prosecutor said.

Uruapan is one of many cities struggling with increasing drug violence. There were two other grenade attacks against police stations there in February.

More than 1,000 people have been killed so far this year in Mexico as drug gangs battle each other for territory and fight off a government crackdown.

In Tijuana, police arrested four associates of Teodoro Garcia Simental, a suspected drug lord and chief rival of Arellano Felix cartel leader Fernando Sanchez Arrellano. One of the four is believed to be Garcia Simental's chief recruiter, federal police said.

Mexican officials blamed the power struggle between Garcia Simental and Sanchez Arrellano for a surge in violence in Tijuana last year. In January, police arrested a man accused of disposing of hundreds of bodies for Garcia Simental by dissolving them in a corrosive material.

Esparza said police are hopeful the recent arrests will help them close in on Tijuana's top drug lords.

Also Monday, Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna said that police are using trained dogs to search for a pit in which an Italian businessman kidnapped in June was reportedly buried after being killed by his captors.

Italian Claudio Conti was a longtime resident and business owner in the southern Pacific coast resort of Puerto Escondido. A man who allegedly helped kidnap Conti told investigators the businessman was ordered to be killed and buried in a pit in the area.

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