Gunmen block roads in Mexico's drug-plagued north

Fri Mar 19, 2010 8:05pm EDT
 
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By Robin Emmott

MONTERREY, Mexico (Reuters) - Armed men likely linked to drug gangs blocked highways with trucks and buses in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey on Friday in an apparent attempt to hamper army operations near the U.S. border.

Gunmen pulled truck and bus drivers out of their vehicles in the wealthy business city and used them to set up blockades on major four-lane highways, sometimes slashing tires to make it harder to tow them away, police and motorists said.

Some similar roadblocks were set up on Thursday.

Monterrey Mayor Fernando Larrazabal suggested drug trafficking cartels were setting up the roadblocks as a way to derail anti-drug operations by security forces.

"The blockades that we are seeing ... could be actions by people linked to organized crime to block avenues and delay federal, state or municipal forces in some operations," he told the Milenio TV network.

Groups of mainly young men wielding pistols began blocking roads on Thursday afternoon, parking trailers and SUVs across highways and setting some on fire. Police said no one has been hurt in the incidents, and no arrests were made as gunmen fled from each roadblock once they had positioned vehicles.

Police used tow trucks to gradually unblock the roads by Friday afternoon, easing traffic jams in the city.

"I saw how a group of men with guns forced a water truck driver out of his vehicle and then turned the truck across the lanes to stop all the traffic," one motorist told local radio, without giving his name.   Continued...