May 26, 2009 / 6:24 PM / 9 years ago

Drug hitmen kidnap, kill Mexican journalist

DURANGO, Mexico, May 26 (Reuters) - Suspected drug hitmen kidnapped and killed a Mexican crime reporter in the northern state of Durango, the second journalist killing this month in an area that has become a new battleground for drug cartels, the state attorney general's office said on Tuesday.

Armed, hooded men burst into the home of Eliseo Barron, a police reporter for national daily newspaper Milenio, and abducted him on Monday night in the northwestern town of Gomez Palacio.

"His body was found naked and with bullet wounds in an irrigation ditch (on Tuesday)," the state's deputy attorney general, Noel Diaz, told reporters in the state capital Durango.

The newspaper also confirmed Barron's killing on its website. It was not clear why he was targeted.

A fight for control of the mountainous state of Durango has killed at least 235 people this year, a jump in violence that poses a new challenge to President Felipe Calderon, who is struggling to contain bloodshed across Mexico.

Officials and analysts say top drug fugitive Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, who has long been battling rivals in other parts of the country, is being attacked in Durango by the Gulf cartel and its brutal "Zetas" armed wing as they fan out from their base in northeastern Mexico, near Texas.

Barron's death follows the killing of another journalist in Durango state, Carlos Ortega, who was shot dead this month as he investigated police corruption,

Mexican journalists reporting on drug gangs are often harassed by traffickers but attacks on the media have increased since Calderon launched his army-backed assault on the cartels at the end of 2006.

Since 2006, at least 17 journalists have been killed in Mexico, making it one of the world's most dangerous places for the media, according to a spokesman for the U.S.-based non-profit organization Committee to Protect Journalists.

Across Mexico, drug violence has killed 2,300 people so far this year, on pace with the 6,300 people murdered in all of 2008.

(Reporting by Pedro Galindo; Editing by Bill Trott)

(For more stories, photos and video on the drug war, click here)

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