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Juarez mayor: Federal police to pull out

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: Juarez police chief says federal police opened fire on his vehicle
  • Mayor: Federal police think local forces are ready to take control
  • Thousands of federal police have been patrolling the city
  • The announcements come less than a day after a prison riot kills 17
  • Ciudad Juarez
  • Mexico

(CNN) -- Mexico's federal police will begin pulling out of Ciudad Juarez in September, the embattled border city's mayor said Tuesday.

The announcement comes after an assessment by the federal police that the city's security situation is under control, Mayor Hector Murguia said. Federal police have determined that local police are in a position to inherit full control of security, he said.

"We have made important advances in the coordination between levels of government and we continue advancing in public safety matters," he said.

Hours after the mayor's proclamation, the city's police chief made his own announcement, accusing more than a dozen federal police of opening fire on his vehicle during a prison riot the night before.

"I asked why they fired at me. ... They never gave me an answer," Juarez Police Chief Julian Leyzaola told reporters. "Fortunately, the vehicle was armored. If not, I wouldn't be here."

A spokesman for the federal police could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday, and the agency had not released an official statement about its presence in Juarez or the alleged shooting.

Thousands of federal police have been patrolling the violence-plagued city since they officially took over its security operation from the Mexican military last April.

Juarez is Mexico's most violent city, and has become a symbol of the brutal realities of the nation's drug war, which has claimed more than 34,600 lives in less than five years.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has deployed thousands of troops across the country since his crackdown on cartels began in December 2006. Federal police have also become a key part of the fight, and officials have debated whether the country should place all its police forces under control of the national agency to stamp out corruption.

Reports of tension and accusations of corruption between authorities are not uncommon.

On Tuesday, a city official demanded that federal authorities investigate the Monday night shooting as authorities showed reporters images of Leyzaola's bullet-scarred vehicle.

"It is neither possible nor believable that it was an accident," said Hector Arcelus, the municipal secretary in Juarez.

In an interview with CNN en Español last month, Leyzaola said coordination between the municipal police and federal police "doesn't exist" in Juarez.

"There is no coordination. They do their work on their side, and we do it on ours," he said.

Local authorities have criticized the federal police presence in Juarez, and citizen groups have also accused federal police of abusing their power.

Last January, city officials lambasted the federal agency after federal police killed one of the mayor's body guards. Mexico's public safety secretary, which oversees the federal police, said the mayor's body guards did not follow orders to identify themselves and put down their weapons, resulting in confusion.

Tuesday's announcements came less than a day after 17 people died in a prison riot in the city, which shares a border with El Paso, Texas.

Two people were injured in the Monday night prison riot, officials said Tuesday. A group of prisoners attacked others whom they considered their rivals, city spokesman Manuel del Castillo said.

Visitation to the prison has been indefinitely suspended, he said, adding that authorities would release more details later.

Journalists Arturo Chacon and Edgar Roman, CNN's Nick Valencia and contributed to this report.