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More than 40 dead in Mexico drug violence

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Feb 21 – Mexico\’s deadliest city lived up to its tragic reputation this past weekend, with at least 40 people murdered in drug-related violence in under 72 hours, authorities said.

"These figures are quite high. It is one of the most violent weekends in Ciudad Juarez in years," said a spokesman for the Chihuahua state prosecutor\’s office.

"On Friday we had 20 murders in Ciudad Juarez, on Saturday 19 and today Sunday there was one so far," said the spokesman Sunday, adding that the killings were apparently related to organized drug crime, based on the type of weapons used.

Nearly 3,000 people were killed in Ciudad Juarez last year, according to official government statistics, a bloodletting that has driven tens of thousands of people into exile and forced the shuttering of roughly 70 percent of the city\’s stores.

More than a week ago, gunmen burst into a local bar, killing eight people, six of them waitresses.

"They fired indiscriminately," a spokesman for the state prosecutor\’s office, Carlos Gonzalez, said.

Another 10 people were killed in other shootings in Ciudad Juarez during a 24-hour period ending February 11, bringing the overall death toll for a single day to 18.

Separately, four people were gunned down this past weekend in the Pacific resort town of Acapulco in apparent drug-related killings, authorities said.

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Stepping up his anti-drug campaign, President Felipe Calderon said Saturday that Mexico will get four new battalions in its expanding and bloody military clash with drug traffickers close to the US border.

Calderon did not immediately give a figure for the number of additional troops nor those now in the same region, where rival cartels are battling for control of lucrative drug-trafficking routes into the United States.

Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon and San Luis Potosi states also have been increasingly hard hit by violent drug crime amid clashes between the Gulf and Zetas cartels, former allies that have since turned against one another.

More than 34,600 people have been killed in drug-related violence since December 2006, when Calderon\’s government deployed soldiers and federal police in a widespread crackdown on the illegal cartels.

A new US government travel advisory issued last week urged a "heightened sense of alert" for Americans living or traveling in central Mexico after drug cartel gunmen fatally shot a US agent and wounded another there.

The agents were ambushed in San Luis Potosi state on Tuesday. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata later died of his wounds while his colleague, Victor Avila, was wounded.

The two agents were returning to Mexico City after meeting with US personnel in the state of San Luis Potosi, US officials said.

The Zetas drug gang, whose presence has grown significantly in that region and throughout Mexico, may have been responsible for the attack, according to a US law enforcement official.

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