A cross-border drug gang that started in Texas prison cells has evolved into a sophisticated paramilitary killing machine that U.S. and Mexican officials suspect is responsible for thousands of assassinations in Mexico, including the recent slaying of three people linked to the U.S. consulate, reports the Washington Post. Heavily tattooed Barrio Azteca gang members have long operated across the border in El Paso, dealing drugs and stealing cars. In Ciudad Juarez, the organization specializes in contract killing for the Juarez drug cartel. It may have been involved in as many as half of the 2,660 killings in the city in the past year.
The Aztecas have honed their ability to locate and stalktargets, then strike in brazen ambushes involving multiple chase cars, coded radio communications, coordinated blocking maneuvers and disciplined firepower by masked gunmen in body armor. The assassins vanish to safe houses in the Juarez barrios or across the bridge to El Paso. “Within their business of killing, they have surveillance people, intel people, and shooters. They have a degree of specialization,” said David Cuthbertson FBI agent in charge in El Paso. “They work day in and day out, with a list of people to kill, and they get proficient at it.”