Monday, January 16, 2012

Canadian murdered on Pacific coast - but lingering questions and mystery remain

Victim was Iraqi born, naturalized in Canada; he was shot nine times in the head with .45 caliber handgun, but robbery was not the motive; Mexican government says he was not a tourist, and asks Canada for investigative help

*Updated Jan. 17*
A Canadian national has been found dead in Culiacán, in Mexico's northwestern Sinaloa state, reports the Milenio network today.

The victim, whose name, age or sex have not been released, sustained two bullet wounds to the head, according to Milenio. Preliminary indications are that the Canadian was a tourist vacationing in the area. The motive may have been robbery.

Sinaloa, an epicenter of narco violence in recent years, is the headquarters of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel. Turf wars between rival drug traffickers are common. On November 4, eight people playing volley ball on a Culiacán street were executed by a machine gun wielding hit team which arrived in a caravan of vehicles and began shooting without warning. On November 23, 25 tortured and burned bodies were found in abandoned vehicles in several regions of the state, 16 of them in Culiacán, a city of 675,000. Two days later, the governor of Sinaloa state announced that he had sent his children abroad.

Jan. 17: The victim in this case was today identified as Salih Abulazis Sahbaz, age 35. Sahbaz was born in Iraq but later became a Canadian citizen. His body was found about 11.40 p.m. Sunday (Jan. 15). The curious part of the story is that nothing was taken from him. His passport, a Canadian government identification card and a wallet with cash were among the effects police found at the scene. He had been shot at close range with a .45 caliber handgun - not a weapon commonly used in Mexico, even by cartel sicarios. News sources said yesterday that he was shot in the head twice, but a subsequent report says it was nine times. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but I find this case very strange, especially in view of the victim's origins. Obviously this was not a robbery, as police originally suggested. Nor would it appear to be related to drug activity. Who then, and why? An assassination?

Finally, another report late today says that the Mexican government has "ruled out" that Sahbaz went to Culiacán as a tourist. That seems a very logical conclusion, since nobody in his right mind wants to travel through that area these days (see links above concerning recent Sinaloa state violence). If Sahbaz was not a tourist, what was he doing there? The plot thickens . . .

May 10 - "Naive" Canadian drug dealers pay heavy price in Mexico

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