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Why Mexico's drug gangs target rehab centers

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The events seemed like something out of a gangster film.

According to Mexico’s El Universal, at around 5:30 p.m. on June 7, five vehicles pulled up outside the Victory Center for Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation in Torreon, Coahuila, in northern Mexico. A gang of heavily-armed men emerged from the cars, and burst into the clinic. Methodically moving from room to room, they opened fire on everyone in sight, killing 13 patients and workers.

Then, as quickly as they had arrived, the assailants climbed back into their cars and fled the scene.

IN PICTURES: Mexico's drug war

Although such extreme violence at a treatment center may seem incomprehensible, attacks on these institutions are becoming a fairly common phenomenon in Mexico. To date, the bloodiest of these shootings was in June 2010, when a gunman killed 19 people in a drug rehabilitation center in the city of Chihuahua, which borders Coahuila.

Mass shootings of this sort, with a defenseless group of people indiscriminately gunned down, have become common in Torreon, though typically the incidents have occurred in bars.

Prior to the June 7 murders, there had been at least five such incidents, resulting in more than 50 deaths, since the beginning of 2010. In most of the cases, official reports blamed the killings on local representatives of the Sinaloa Cartel, who are based in neighboring Gomez Palacio and have been engaged in a year-long battle with Torreon-based Zetas for control of the area.

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