- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

CIUDAD JUAREZ, MEXICO (AP) - Mexico deployed 2,000 troops to this embattled northern border city Friday to reinforce a crackdown against drug gangs.

Another 3,000 soldiers will arrived in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, by Sunday, said Enrique Torres, the spokesman for a joint military-police operation in Chihuahua state, where the city of 1.3 million people is located.

With the additional troops, the city will be patrolled by 8,500 soldiers and 2,300 federal agents, Torres said. He said that the troops and federal agents will take control of the local police department, the state prison and even the traffic division as part of a new strategy to combat spiking violence.

The deployment is part of a nationwide crackdown on drug cartels that has grown to include more than 45,000 troops since President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006.

Drug violence has surged since the government launched the offensive, claiming 6,000 lives in 2008. About 1,600 of those killings were in Ciudad Juarez.

Also Friday, Chihuahua state prosecutors announced a 500,000 peso (US$34,000) reward for information leading to the arrest of two men accused of killing one of Gov. Jose Reyes Baeza’s bodyguards.

Last month, gunmen in two cars fired high-powered weapons on a convoy carrying Reyes Baeza, killing the bodyguard and wounding two others. A gunman was also wounded.

Chihuahua state Attorney General Patricia Gonzalez said Sunday at least three gunmen working for the Juarez cartel opened fire on the governor’s convoy.

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