US consulate warns citizens to avoid Tijuana as fires and roadblocks have been reported across Baja


Tijuana cartel fires
Relatives of a woman who died in a fire at a convenience store that was set on fire by unknown assailants, in a simultaneous attack of fires in different parts of Ciudad Juarez, according to local media, react outside the store on August 11 . REUTERS/Jose Luis González

Hundreds of Mexican troops were sent to Ciudad Juarez on Friday as violence sparked in the border town near Texas could be linked to a series of incidents in and around Tijuana.

The situation began in Ciudad Juarez with a confrontation in prison between members of two rival cartels, which sparked a riot and shootings that left 11 people dead, most of them civilians, authorities said.

The violence then reached the city and by Friday had apparently moved west. The U.S. Consulate in Tijuana warned U.S. citizens late in the evening to avoid the area, while acknowledging that officials are “aware of reports of multiple vehicle fires, roadblocks, and intense police activity.” in Tijuana, Mexicali, Rosarito, Ensenada and Tecate.

The Twitter post noted that US government employees have been instructed to shelter in place until further notice. Authorities had issued a travel alert last month.

According to one account, 19 fires had been reported across Baja California. Broadcast media showed footage of several vehicles, including vans and delivery trucks, on fire.

Tijuana Mayor Montserrat Caballero urged cartels to leave the innocent alone, while various police departments and other government organizations posted warnings or shutdown notices on social media.

Another official, Governor of Baja Pilar Marina, condemned the violence on Twitter and urged residents to remain calm. She said “there are already detainees” detained who are considered “responsible for the events”.

The violence began Thursday in Ciudad Juarez, just across the border from El Paso. Los Chapos, members of the infamous Sinaloa Cartel once led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, and the local group Los Mexicles clashed in a jail in the afternoon, Deputy Security Minister Ricardo said Mejia.

A riot then broke out, in which two people were shot and killed and four were shot and injured, Mejia said, speaking alongside Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador at a regular press conference.

Sixteen others were injured in the fighting, he said. Officials did not specify the cause of the clash.

But the rampage spread from outside the prison to the city because of the Mexicles, authorities said, and nine civilians died, including four employees of a radio station, including an announcer.

Across the city, convenience stores were shot down and set on fire. FEMSA, the parent company of the Oxxo chain, said in a statement that one of its employees and a woman applying for a job died in the violence.

At around 1 a.m. Friday morning, six suspected members of Mexicles were arrested by local police, with the help of the army and national guard, Mejia said.

On Friday afternoon, some 300 army soldiers were expected to arrive in town, followed by 300 more.

“(Juarez) Mayor Cruz Perez has let us know that (the city) is now in a state of calm; public order has been restored,” Mejia said.

“We hope it doesn’t happen again, because innocent people were attacked,” the president said.

Thursday’s attacks follow clashes between cartels and the military in central Mexico that led to the burning of taxis, buses and about 20 Oxxo stores, Lopez Obrador said.

“We should not and cannot get used to this type of event,” distribution group ANTAD said. “Mexico doesn’t deserve it.”

(Reporting by Kylie Madry, with additional reporting by Tomas Bravo; Editing by Ros Russell and Alex Richardson)

Reuters and staff reports

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