The violence started in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, when two cartels started a prison riot. The riot appeared to then spark shootings and riots throughout the area, and hundreds of Mexican troops were sent in to quell the violence, according to officials.
The unrest spread to other cities, including Tijuana, and nearly 20 fires were reported throughout Baja California.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said that “innocent civilians were attacked as a kind of retaliation,” following the violence.
The U.S. Consulate in Tijuana told Americans in the area on Friday to shelter in place.
“The U.S. Consulate General Tijuana is aware of reports of multiple vehicle fires, roadblocks, and heavy police activity in Tijuana, Mexicali, Rosarito, Ensenada, and Tecate. U.S. government employees have been instructed to shelter in place until further notice,” the entity announced.
The two cartels that had started the violence were the Los Mexicles and Sinaloa Cartel, linked to the infamous drug-lord “El Chapo” Guzman. Over twenty people were injured and 2 killed during the fights inside the prison.
Gang members not in the prison then caused havoc in the city, burning down businesses and shooting innocent civilians, according to police. Police say that at least nine people not involved with the gangs were killed during the violence.
“Hopefully it’s not something that will be repeated, because they attacked the civilian population, innocent people,” Obrador told the press on Friday. “It wasn’t just a fight between two groups; they began shooting civilians, and this is the most unfortunate part.”
Juarez’s Mayor Cruz Perez Cuellar called the attacks cowardly and said that police were working to establish “order” in the city.
Several gang members have been arrested in connection with the violence. By Friday afternoon, authorities said that peace had been restored to the city.
Violence in Juarez is not unusual, as drug cartels have long used the area as a staging area for sending drugs into the U.S. According to the El Paso Times, 10,000 people were killed in the area from 2008-2012. Just in the past week, a severed head was found in an ice chest and police are still investigating the murder.