World briefs – March 16

The two families climbed into white SUVs and almost simultaneously left the children’s birthday party put on by the U.S. consulate.

Mexico drug gangs suspected in deaths

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — The two families climbed into white SUVs and almost simultaneously left the children’s birthday party put on by the U.S. consulate. One headed deeper into one of the world’s most dangerous cities, the other toward a bridge to El Paso, one of America’s safest.

Neither made it.

Gunmen chased down the two vehicles and opened fire in attacks that raised the chilling prospect that Mexico’s cartels have dropped any reservations about killing American officials in their battle for the multibillion-dollar U.S. drug market.

Three adults with connections to the U.S. consulate were killed, and two children were wounded.

Mexico said U.S. intelligence pointed toward the Aztecas street gang, which is aligned with the murderous Juarez drug cartel. Authorities raised the possibility that only one of the families was targeted, while the other was chased because they both drove white SUVs. They offered no details of this theory.

Authorities in both countries said they don’t know the motive.


Taliban arrest angers Karzai

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Afghan government was holding secret talks with the Taliban’s No. 2 when he was captured in Pakistan, and the arrest infuriated President Hamid Karzai, according to one of Karzai’s advisers.

The detention of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar — second in the Taliban only to one-eyed Mullah Mohammed Omar — has raised new questions about whether the U.S. is willing to back peace discussions with leaders who harboured the terrorists behind the Sept. 11 attacks.

Karzai “was very angry” when he heard that the Pakistanis had picked up Baradar with an assist from U.S. intelligence, the adviser said. Besides the ongoing talks, he said Baradar had “given a green light” to participating in a three-day peace jirga that Karzai is hosting next month.

The adviser, who had knowledge of the peace talks, spoke on condition of anonymity because of their sensitivity.

Other Afghan officials, including Abdul Ali Shamsi, security adviser to the governor of Helmand province, also confirmed talks between Baradar and the Afghan government. Several media reports have suggested that Baradar had been in touch with Karzai representatives, but these are the first details to emerge from the discussions.

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