Ciudad Juarez – A U.S. federal court employee was killed earlier this month by kidnappers in Ciudad Juarez, a gritty border metropolis located across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, the Chihuahua state Attorney General's Office said.
Jorge Dieppa worked as an interpreter for more than seven years, U.S. federal court spokesmen in El Paso told Efe.
Three suspects have been arrested in connection with the court employee's kidnapping and murder, the Chihuahua AG's office said Wednesday.
The suspects were identified as Lizbeth Nayeli Rodriguez Alanis, 22, Victor Alfonso Cano Molina, 24, and Antonio Tarango Montes, 60.
The 57-year-old victim's body was found by investigators on July 6 in an abandoned house in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico's murder capital, the AG's office said.
The court interpreter had been kidnapped a day earlier when he went to the border city to visit his girlfriend of five years, Mexican officials said.
The man saw Rodriguez Alanis while being held captive and the gang decided to kill him, the AG's office said.
The U.S. federal court employee's body was mutilated and his face covered with duct tape, prosecutors said.
The suspects were arrested by state police, the AG's office said.
The kidnapping-murder was made public just days after the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez warned of possible attacks on the diplomatic facility.
The consulate posted a statement on its Web site warning U.S. citizens of a possible surge in violence in Chihuahua and, especially, Ciudad Juarez following the arrests of several major drug traffickers.
Drug cartels may seek to retaliate by attacking U.S. interests in Chihuahua state, the consulate said.
At least 14,000 "armed criminals" are in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua city, the state capital, working for the drug cartels that are fighting for control of smuggling routes into the United States, Chihuahua Attorney General Carlos Manuel Salas said last month.
"It was an inherited war, which we got from the prior administration, in which 9,000 armed criminals are fighting for Juarez and a number near 5,000 for the city of Chihuahua," Salas said.
About 5,500 of the armed criminals operating in Ciudad Juarez belong to Los Aztecas, a gang that works as the armed wing of the Juarez cartel, while the rest work for the Sinaloa cartel, Salas said.
More than 8,500 people have been killed in Ciudad Juarez since late 2006, and the death toll this year has topped 1,000.
The violence has not subsided in Ciudad Juarez despite the deployment of nearly 10,000 soldiers and Federal Police officers in the border city.
More than 3,100 people were murdered in Ciudad Juarez last year, making 2010 the worst year since the war between rival drug gangs sent the homicide rate skyrocketing in 2008.
The federal government claims that the murder rate in Juarez has fallen 60 percent this year, but local activists contend that it has only dropped 24 percent.
A total of 15,270 people died in drug-related violence in Mexico last year, and nearly 40,000 people have died since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the country's cartels shortly after taking office in December 2006.
Calderon has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers and Federal Police officers across the country to combat drug cartels and other criminal organizations.
The anti-drug operation, however, has failed to put a dent in the violence due, according to experts, to drug cartels' ability to buy off the police and even high-ranking officials.