MEXICO CITY — A record 111 U.S. citizens were killed in Mexico last year, nearly half of them on or near the Texas border, as the country's gang-fueled violence worsened, according to the U.S. State Department.
The recently released reports don't specify how or why the Americans were murdered, nor does it name victims. But 80 percent of them were killed in border states where narcotics violence is worst — 39 alone in Ciudad Juarez, which shares the Rio Grande with El Paso, and other nearby towns.
The impact on U.S. citizens visiting or living in parts of Mexico has steadily worsened since President Felipe Calderon deployed the army and federal police in late 2006 in an as yet unsuccessful attempt to crush the rising reach of the gangs.
The number of U.S. victims last year was more than triple the toll in 2007. Over a four-year period, 283 Americans were reported murdered, according to State Department figures.
In the same period, more than 35,000 Mexicans have been killed, including about 15,000 last year. The Mexican government says most were gangsters. But hundreds of innocent civilians also have been killed.
"Bystanders, including U.S. citizens, have been injured or killed in violent incidents in various parts of the country, especially, but not exclusively in the northern border region, demonstrating the heightened risk of violence throughout Mexico," the latest State Department travel warning observes.
The warning notes that most of the country, including major beach resorts, remains safe.
"There is no evidence that U.S. tourists have been targeted by criminal elements due to their citizenship," advises the travel warning, which was issued last week. "Nonetheless, while in Mexico you should be aware of your surroundings at all times and exercise particular caution in unfamiliar areas."
Many residents along the border have dual U.S.-Mexico citizenship. Some of the Americans may have spent most of their lives in Mexico.