Three people, including a pregnant woman who was an employee of the United States Consulate, were gunned down by a suspected drug gang in Ciudad Juarez in Mexico over the weekend.

Consulate employee Lesley Enriquez (35) and her husband, Arthur Redelfs (34), were shot dead in broad daylight as they were driving home from a social gathering. Their seven-month-old daughter was found unharmed in the back seat. In another incident, the husband of a Mexican employee at the Consulate was killed and his two children wounded. The killings occurred a few minutes apart.

The killings come in the wake of a surge in drug-related violence that has steadily tightened its grip on Mexico, claiming close to 18,000 lives in the in the past three years.

Warning

According to reports, the latest attacks came even as the U.S. was authorising government employees at six Mexican consulates to send their families out of the region due to the bloodshed.

U.S. President Barack Obama was “deeply saddened and outraged” at the events, according to White House officials. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “I have spoken with our Ambassador in Mexico and we are working with the government of Mexico to do everything necessary to protect our people and to ensure that the perpetrators of these horrendous acts are brought to justice.” Mexican President Felipe Calderon said he was indignant and promised a swift investigation, according to reports.

While Mexican security forces gave no information on the likely motive, reports quoted U.S. State Department spokesman Fred Lash as saying the three slain people had attended the same social event before the attacks.

After the killings the State Department issued a travel warning for Mexico, saying: “Recent violent attacks have prompted the U.S. Embassy to urge U.S. citizens to delay unnecessary travel to parts of Durango, Coahuila and Chihuahua states and advise U.S. citizens residing or travelling in those areas to exercise extreme caution.”

Drug cartels and associated criminal elements have retaliated violently against individuals who speak out against them or whom they otherwise view as a threat to their organisations, said the advisory.

Mr. Obama further said the U.S. would “continue to work with Mexican President Felipe Calderon… to break the power of the drug trafficking organisations that operate in Mexico and far too often target and kill the innocent.”

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