Latin America & Caribbean

Extortionists burn down nursery school in Ciudad Juarez

View of the kindergarten after the alleged arson attack in Ciudad Juarez on 7 December 2010
Image caption The kindergarten was attacked apparently after its owners refused to pay extortion money

Unidentified attackers have set fire to a kindergarten in the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez, apparently after its owners refused to pay extortion money.

A message was sprayed on the walls of the kindergarten urging the owners to pay up.

The fire happened overnight, so no children were injured. The nursery has now been closed down indefinitely.

Ciudad Juarez is the most violent city in Mexico, with an average of eight murders a day.

The nursery's owners had been approached by unidentified men who demanded an undisclosed sum in exchange for "protection", which was not paid, police told local media.

Some teachers in the city have reported being threatened with attacks unless they hand over half their Christmas bonuses.

Also on Sunday night, armed men attacked two drug rehabilitation centres in the city killing four of the patients.

Attacks on drug rehabilitation centres in Mexico are increasingly common.

Police say the facilities are often used to recruit young men to work in the drugs trade, making them a target for rival drug gangs.

Nine people were killed in an attack on a drug clinic in June in Durango state and 13 were shot dead in October in Tijuana, another city on the US-Mexico border.

The northern states along the border are at the centre of a violent battle between rival drug cartels for control over the lucrative drug smuggling routes to the United States.

More than 30,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence over the past four years, since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the country's drug cartels.

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