CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico—A U.S. university student died Wednesday from a shooting attack on a car in Ciudad Juarez, making him the fifth American slain in the violent border city in six days.
Eder Diaz, 23, a student across the border at the University of Texas at El Paso, was attacked Tuesday evening along with classmate Manuel Acosta, 25, the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez confirmed in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press.
Gunmen opened fire on a car in which the two were traveling, according to an investigator from the state of Chihuahua, where Ciudad Juarez is located. The investigator spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case.
Acosta was killed at the scene, while Diaz died early Wednesday at a Juarez hospital, university spokesman Steve Lazarin said. Diaz was a business major and Acosta a computer information systems major, he added.
In a recent photograph from the El Paso Times, the two are shown smiling and high-fiving a car dealership owner as he entered a classroom for a talk with students.
The consulate said it had not yet confirmed whether Acosta was also a U.S. citizen. The investigator said he was from Chihuahua’s capital of the same name.
Diaz was the fifth U.S. citizen to be killed in Ciudad Juarez since Friday. All the victims were from El Paso, Texas, which is located across the border from Ciudad Juarez.
Luis Carlos Araiza, 15, a student at Bowie High School in El Paso, and Joanna Herrera, 27, were fatally shot while traveling in a BMW sport utility vehicle near the Zaragoza international bridge Saturday. Mexican officials said they had criminal records but would not elaborate.
Edgar Lopez, 35, was shot and killed Saturday at a residence in Ciudad Juarez, while on Friday, Lorena Izaguirre, 24, was killed at a tortilla shop.
Killings of U.S. citizens are on the rise in Mexico, which has seen more than 28,000 deaths so far in its bloody, 4-year-old war on organized crime.
According to U.S. State Department figures, Americans were victims in 47 homicides in Mexico in the first six months of 2010, the most recent figures available—13 in Cuidad Juarez as of the end of June.
That number is on track to pass 79 homicides of U.S. citizens in 2009, which saw a significant jump from 56 such homicides in 2008.
The most recent attacks represent the deadliest week for Americans in Mexico since Feb. 1, when four U.S. citizens were killed in different parts of the country. The largest previous single-city death toll for Americans was on May 9, 2009, when four U.S. citizens were slain in Tijuana, across the border from San Diego, California.
Few of the victims seem to have been targeted as U.S. citizens. In some killings, U.S. citizens apparently have been in the company of Mexican friends, relatives or acquaintances who were the targets. Other Americans have been killed by stray bullets.
In one of the most brazen attacks, U.S. consular employee Lesley A. Enriquez and her husband, Arthur H. Redelfs, were shot to death in their white SUV on a Ciudad Juarez street last March after leaving a children’s birthday party.
A man whose wife also worked at the consulate was fatally shot about the same time in a different part of the city because he left the same event in a car that looked similar to Enriquez’s.
Suspects later told investigators the Azteca gang ordered the killings, claiming Enriquez helped rival gang members get visas. Investigators deny that Enriquez was involved with drug gangs.
Ciudad Juarez has become one of the world’s deadliest cities amid a turf war between the Sinaloa and Juarez drug cartels. More than 2,000 people have been killed this year in the city.
The state department has issued a travel warning for several parts of Mexico, including Chihuahua state, adding that Ciudad Juarez is of special concern. In the warning, the U.S. government advises its citizens to defer unnecessary travel to Ciudad Juarez and to the Guadalupe Bravo area, southeast of Ciudad Juarez.
“In both areas, American citizens have been victims of drug related violence,” the warning says.