CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — Gunmen stormed two neighboring homes and massacred 13 young people at a birthday party in the latest large-scale attack in this violent border city, even as a new government strategy seeks to restore order with social programs and massive police deployments.
Attackers in two vehicles pulled up to the houses in a lower-middle-class Ciudad Juarez neighborhood late Friday and opened fire on about four dozen partygoers gathered for a 15-year-old boy's birthday party.
The dead identified so far were 13 to 32 years old, including six women and girls, Chihuahua state Attorney General Carlos Salas told reporters at a news conference at the crime scene. The majority of the victims were high school students, a survivor said.
Relatives of the victims gathered outside the prosecutor's office, some weeping, some shouting demands for justice. All asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals.
"Why, my God, why," shouted the mother of a 16-year-old boy, after she identified her son's body.
"I want to be dead, with my daughter," the mother of a 19-year-old woman killed in the attack told a reporter. "This cannot go on. We want justice, even though nothing can bring her back."
Salas said 20 people were wounded, including a 9-year-old boy. Authorities earlier gave lower numbers for the wounded because some victims were taken by relatives to hospitals throughout the city and were not immediately located.
One survivor of Friday's massacre said the birthday boy's mother had decided to hold the party at their home, precisely because she thought it was safer. The party spilled over into the neighboring home.
A 16-year-old boy, who did not want to be identified, said an attacker entered one of the homes and asked partygoers about a car parked in front of the home, suggesting the killers may have been following the vehicle. He survived the attack by throwing himself to the floor and other partygoers fell on top of him, shielding him from the bullets.
The survivor said the gunman he saw appeared to be about 20, wearing a baseball cap and carrying a pistol, and simply opened fire after no one answered his questions.
Police found 70 bullet casings from assault weapons typically used by drug gangs whose bloody turf battles have killed more than 2,000 people this year in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso.
Salas said the attackers escaped, and police said they had no immediate information on any suspects or possible motive. Salas expressed outrage at the situation.
"The criminals do not respect families or their homes," Salas said. "How can they wound young women, how can they severely wound a 9-year-old boy, how is it possible that a group of youths gathering to hold a birthday party wind up like this?"