Ciudad Juarez – About a thousand students and teachers participated in a gangland gun battle simulation at a school in this violent Mexican border city, officials said.
A dozen individuals in the role of cartel hit men staged the fake shootout Thursday at the Cbtis 114 high school while teachers and students - following safety protocols instituted last week by the city's municipal police force - took cover under desks and tables inside the classrooms.
The goal of the exercise was to reinforce instruction imparted last week during police safety seminars.
Those sessions are being offered by the Juarez police force's Group 16, responsible for establishing the safety protocols for schools throughout Chihuahua state and at all levels, from kindergarten to high school, police spokesman Adrian Sanchez told Efe.
The safety instruction is a response to gun battles pitting drug cartel hit men against one another or members of the security forces, some of which have have taken place near or on schools' premises during class hours.
On Aug. 24, assailants fired gunshots at a group of parents waiting to pick up their children outside an elementary school in Ciudad Juarez, killing one person and wounding four women.
Ciudad Juarez, located across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, has been plagued by a wave of drug-related violence in recent years blamed on a war for control of smuggling routes into the United States being waged by the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels with backing from hit men from local street gangs.
Nearly 10,000 people have been murdered in the border city since 2008.
Ciudad Juarez, with 191 homicides per 100,000 residents, was the most violent city in the world in 2009, registering a higher murder rate than San Pedro Sula, San Salvador, Caracas and Guatemala City, two Mexican non-governmental organizations said in a report released last year.
But experts say the murder rate in the metropolis is down significantly in 2011.
Nationwide, nearly 50,000 people have been killed in turf battles among rival drug mobs and clashes between cartel gunmen and members of security forces since President Felipe Calderon took office nearly five years ago.