Two students at the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education in Monterrey, Mexico were shot and killed March 19 when Mexican troops entered the campus in search of suspected drug cartel gunmen.
Jorge Antonio Mercado Alonso and Javier Francisco Arredondo Verdugo were mechanical engineering graduate students at the school, which is located in Nuevo Léon, a state in the northeastern region of Mexico.
Mexican army officials claimed Friday that the two dead men were gang members, according to Nuevo Léon Attorney General Alejandro Garza y Garza. However, this report was changed Saturday, when Mercado’s mother failed to reach her son after hearing news of the shootout and traveled to Monterrey to identify Mercado’s body.
“I offer a public apology and take responsibility for having given information that ended up not being correct,” University rector Rafael Rangel said to CNN.
Rangel said that both students had scholarships for excellence.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon also gave a statement expressing his regret for the killings, as well as his grief for the families of the fallen students.
“The Mexican government expresses its most deeply felt condolences to the families,” the Interior Ministry said in a press release. The Federal Interior Ministry has promised a thorough investigation of the students’ deaths.
Nuevo Léon witnessed intense fighting Thursday and Friday, as suspected gang members blockaded more than 30 roads with hijacked vehicles in attempt to prevent military reinforcements from arriving.
Starting in the afternoon of March 18, men armed with pistols and sticks pulled drivers from their vehicles, parking SUVs and trucks across highways, even slashing tires and setting vehicles on fire. Police used tow trucks, to unblock all roads by Friday evening, clearing up traffic in Monterrey.
The blockades were a response to increased anti-drug action from the Mexican government, head of public security for Nuevo Léon Luis Carlos Treviño Berchelmann said.
In addition to the two students who were killed, crossfire between military and drug cartel gunmen left over 30 dead, according to officials.
The area has been plagued by gang violence between the Zetas and Gulf drug cartels after a recent gang murder.
By Chris McKenna March 26, 2010
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