Vacationers urged to re-think travel plans after 2 Americans killed in Mexico

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by Philip Elliott / Associated Press Writer

azfamily.com

Posted on March 15, 2010 at 5:48 PM

Updated Monday, Mar 15 at 6:41 PM

WASHINGTON — Three people with ties to the American consulate in a drug-plagued Mexican city were killed in a drive-by shooting, a U.S. official said Sunday.

The department noted the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City has advised American citizens to delay unnecessary travel to parts of the Mexican states of Durango, Coahuila and Chihuahua.

Two American citizens and a spouse of a Mexican employee were killed Saturday afternoon, a U.S. official said. The official spoke only on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information.

The White House said President Barack Obama was "deeply saddened and outraged" by the killings of those linked to the U.S. mission in Ciudad Juarez.

"He extends his condolences to the families and condemns these attacks on consular and diplomatic personnel serving at our foreign missions," the White House said in a statement. "In concert with Mexican authorities, we will work tirelessly to bring their killers to justice."

The State Department authorized U.S. government employees at six U.S. consulates in northern Mexico to send their family members out of the area because of concerns about rising drug-related violence. At least 18,000 people have been killed since Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against drug traffickers in December 2006.

The State Department said it would allow family members of diplomatic staff to leave border cities of Tijuana, Nogales, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Monterrey and Matamoros.

State Department spokesman Fred Lash said the decision to authorize consular employees' family members to leave the area was based not only on Saturday's killings but also on a wider pattern of violence and threats in northern Mexico in recent weeks.

The bloody drug war in has plagued the 200-mile U.S.-Mexican border for years, and once-busy streets are empty after dark. More than 45,000 soldiers have been dispatched to fight cartels since Calderon took office in late 2006, but the U.S. has been critical of Mexican efforts to fight the drug trade amid complaints of human rights abuses.

The State Department has launched an annual campaign for Mexico called "Know Before You Go." The site lists the top Spring Break destinations in Mexico and includes safety tips and precautions for each place, as well as emergency contacts at Consulates. For further details go to "Know Before You Go."

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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