Raymundo Ruiz / AP
Forensic experts work on the scene after gunmen opened fire on an ambulance, killing the driver, two patients and a relative of one of the patients in Ciudad Juarez on Wednesday. According to authorities and witnesses, gunmen riding on a pick-up crashed into the ambulance and opened fire. The patients in the ambulance were being transferred from one hospital to another for dialysis treatment.
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico - Gunmen attacked an ambulance in this border city Wednesday, killing the driver, two patients and a fourth person in the vehicle, officials said.
The Chihuahua state Attorney General's Office said the ambulance driver was shot in the head and appeared to be the target of the attack. It did not provide theories about a motive.
Two of the victims were patients being taken to a Ciudad Juarez facility for kidney treatment, officials said. A woman accompanying the patients was also killed.
Rosendo Gaytan, a spokesman for the Mexican Social Security Institute in Ciudad Juarez said a pickup truck carrying the gunmen intentionally crashed into the ambulance, forcing it to stop. The attackers then got out of the truck and opened fire on the ambulance, Gaytan said.
Ciudad Juarez, which is across the border from El Paso, Texas, is in the midst of a war between the Juarez and Sinaloa drug cartels and saw some 3,100 homicides last year. Killings have gradually decreased but violence remains high.
Authorities reported six other slayings Wednesday in addition to the ambulance attack.
Elsewhere, three members of a criminal gang allied with the Zetas drug cartel have been detained in connection with the slayings of 26 people last month in the western Mexican city of Guadalajara, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Jalisco state Attorney General Tomas Coronado said the arrested men belonged to the Milenio gang and had told police that the slain men were members of a rival group that refused to join with Milenio.
Analysts have described the Guadalajara slayings as the result of a growing rivalry between the Zetas and the powerful Sinaloa cartel. The Sinaloa cartel is based in Sinaloa state, to the north of Jalisco.
Meanwhile, TIME magazine on Wednesday highlighted Mexico's "spreading drug war" as one of its 10 "underreported stories" of 2011.
A list compiled by Reuters of the country's worst atrocities of 2011 includes:
- In April, officials unearthed the first of what turned out to be more than 450 bodies buried in mass graves in the northern states of Durango and Tamaulipas.
- August 20: Five headless bodies were found in Acapulco, taking the number of people killed in the popular Pacific resort to at least 25 in that one week.
- August 25: Masked gunmen torch a casino in Monterrey, killing 52 people, most of them women. The attack takes less than three minutes.
- September 20: Thirty-five bodies are found abandoned in two trucks on an underpass in the eastern Gulf city of Veracruz, which had been largely untouched by the violence.
- October 6: Mexican security forces find 32 bodies at several locations around Veracruz, just two days after the government unveiled a plan to bolster security in Veracruz state.
- November 24: More than 20 bodies are found in cars in Mexico's second city, Guadalajara, a day after the burned bodies of 16 people are found in the home state of the country's powerful drug lord, Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman.
The Associated Press, Reuters and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.
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