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Jul 22, 9:32 PM EDT

5th family gunned down in 2 weeks in Mexico

Drug Lords' Aliases
Mexican cartels reaching farther into U.S.

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- A couple and their three children were shot to death in western Mexico, prosecutors said Friday, marking the fifth killing of families in two weeks.

Mexican criminal gangs used to avoid targeting the family members of their rivals. But in recent weeks, gunmen have mowed down fathers, mothers and children indiscriminately.

Michoacan state prosecutors said in a statement that the latest killings occurred in the drug-plagued city of Arteaga, once the headquarters of a Knights Templar cartel leader. One person survived the attack by unidentified gunmen, and is being treated at a hospital.

In the normally less-violent southern state of Oaxaca, a man, a woman and their son were shot to death this week in the city of Juchitan. A hand-lettered sign left at the scene suggested the slayings were linked to a dispute between criminal gangs.

Three days earlier, eight adult members of a family were killed in the popular Oaxaca beach resort of Puerto Escondido. The prosecutor's office said that the victims were shark fishermen and that an early line of inquiry was whether they might have been involved in other activities while at sea.

And in the northern border state of Tamaulipas, two families were gunned down in two separate attacks earlier this month.

In the first attack, gunmen entered a home and killed 11 members of the same family while they were sleeping, including four girls. In the second attack, five members of a family - two women and three minors - were killed in their home by armed intruders.

The violence in Tamaulipas, across the border from Texas, has not abated since then.

On Friday, the state government reported that five suspected kidnappers were trying to toss the lifeless body of one of their victims on a rural road, when a marine patrol intercepted the two vehicles they were travelling in. The suspects opened fire and tried to flee.

The marines returned fire, and both vehicles caught fire; five suspects died in the flames.

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