Mexican soldiers kill five in border town, sparking protests

A report indicates members of the Mexican army opened fire on a pick-up truck in city of Nuevo Laredo, near US border.

Security forces patrol a highway near Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, looking for missing people.
Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, has been the site of human rights violations from both cartels and military members [File: Daniel Becerril/Reuters]

A shooting by Mexican army soldiers has left five people dead in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, igniting a clash between the soldiers and residents who came to the scene to protest.

The soldiers were investigating gunshots from the area and opened fire on a pick-up truck early Sunday after it failed to obey their orders to stop, according to a state crime scene report obtained on Monday by The Associated Press.

The report said five bodies were found in or near the bullet-riddled truck in Nuevo Laredo, which is opposite Laredo, Texas.

The incident provoked a scuffle between soldiers and a large group of angry residents who believed the “victims were not armed and that there was no reason to arbitrarily kill them in this way”, the group Human Rights Committee of Nuevo Laredo said in a statement.

Videos of the incident posted on social media show residents scuffling with soldiers on a street near the bullet-ridden pick-up truck, with civilians throwing punches, knocking one soldier to the ground and repeatedly kicking him. Gunfire can be heard towards the end of that incident, sending people running, but it is not clear who fired the shots.

In a video statement, rights committee activist Raymundo Ramos claimed the soldiers fired at the crowd but had no immediate information about any additional casualties. He also said the dead youths had been returning from a night out at a club when they were killed.

The state crime scene report said a Texas-issued identification document was found on one of the dead bodies. The United States Embassy could not immediately confirm whether any US citizens or residents were involved.

The report said three of the bodies were found in the pick-up truck and two on the sidewalk nearby. Such reports usually note any weapons found at a crime scene, but no mention was made of any in this case.

Nuevo Laredo is dominated by the violent Northeast drug cartel, an offshoot of the old Zetas cartel. Soldiers and marines have frequently come under fire from heavily armed cartel gunmen in Nuevo Laredo.

The city has also been the scene of human rights violations by the military in the past.

In 2021, Mexico’s navy said it turned 30 marines over to civilian prosecutors to face justice in the cases of people who disappeared during anticrime operations in Nuevo Laredo in 2014.

Marines were also accused of rounding up supposed suspects, some of whom were not heard from again. Through 2018, dozens of people disappeared in Nuevo Laredo.

Under Mexican law, military tribunals can hear only cases that involve violations of the military code. Offences against civilians must be tried in civilian courts.

Source: The Associated Press