Friday 12 November 2010 10.55 GMT
Residents leave Ciudad Mier near US border en masse after military kills Gulf cartel leader Tony Tormenta.
Mexican soldiers patrol a dirt road near Ciudad Mier following the killing of druglord Tony Tormenta. Photograph: AP
The death of one of Mexico's most wanted druglords was always likely to lead to reprisals. For the residents of one town in the north-eastern state of Tamaulipas, it has meant fleeing their homes en masse in fear of an explosion of violence following the Mexican authorities' killing of the Gulf cartel leader Tony Tormenta.
Families started leaving Ciudad Mier, a small farming town about 10 miles from the US border, within hours of the major military operation that left Tormenta dead in the frontier city of Matamoros on 5 November. Now there is almost no one left.
"The situation is terrible and sad," one of a handful of people remaining in the town told the Guardian by phone, on condition of anonymity. "The few of us still here only go out if absolutely necessary and only in the morning. People don't even go to mass any more."
The Gulf cartel and their erstwhile allies the Zetas have been fighting each other across Tamaulipas throughout the year, vying for dominance in certain areas of the state. The death of Tormenta, whose real name was Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen, has put that territorial division in doubt.
A resident of Ciudad Mier said the Gulf cartel took control of the town about eight months ago, but that Zeta incursions had increased in recent weeks. He said the entrances to town were littered with burned-out vehicles and the tarmac covered in a carpet of shell casings.
"Almost every night we hear convoys of gunmen driving around, and there have been shootouts lasting for hours," he said. The death toll is impossible to estimate because the bodies are removed by the gunmen.
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Source 1, 2