Shootouts leave 8 police wounded in Mexico

TIJUANA, Mexico – Mexico started off the New Year with a string of shootouts and killings.

In the northern city of Torreon, federal police said Friday they had captured two alleged hit men after the suspects threw a hand grenade at police and soldiers who cornered them at a house. Eight officers were wounded in the Thursday confrontation.

The Public Safety Department said more grenades, pistols and assault rifles were found inside the home. The two suspects were members of the Gulf drug cartel and were wanted on homicide charges in the United States, the department said.

Killings in the border city of Tijuana started less than an hour into 2009 when Saul Tamayo Hernandez, 26, was shot by gunmen while celebrating the new year outside his house with his family.

Things in Tijuana seemed to get worse with the reported kidnapping of a 12-year-old boy. But police said Friday the youth staged his own disappearance.

The boy was reported abducted Wednesday when he ran to his home to pick something up for a New Year’s Eve dinner at his grandparents house a few blocks away.

When the boy didn’t return, his mother went looking for him and found the door of her house forced open. A note said her son had been taken and that she would be killed if she stayed at her home.

Police said in a statement Friday the boy was found and confessed to ransacking the home and leaving the note to get money to party with his friends.

In the western town of La Huerta, a shootout between rival families at a New Year’s party left four dead, and a clash between soldiers and alleged drug traffickers in Chihuahua state reportedly killed three smugglers.

Federal prosecutors also said they placed three municipal policemen in the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez under house arrest on suspicion of aiding drug traffickers.

And in the northern city of Monterrey, prosecutors accused former Nuevo Leon state policeman Aldo Perales, 34, of leading a gang of bank robbers and participating in more than 30 robberies.