Contract murders for just $40 in Mexican city

The office says the teen assassins are recruited from the shantytowns springing up around Mexico's murder capital, which lies just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.

"To go to school, a kid spends about 42 pesos ($3.50) a day on his transportation. Then they decide not to go to class, so they end up as the neither-nors: they neither study nor work," the office's deputy director, Raul Ibañez Marquez, told Milenio newspaper.

More than 3,000 people have been slain this year in Juarez. Authorities blame the carnage on turf battles between rival drug cartels.

The war has taken such a toll on the cartels that they are now actively recruiting adolescents and even pre-teens.

Youngsters in the Juarez slums spoke to researchers about carrying out their first contract killing at 13 in exchange for the equivalent of $40.

A 14-year-old boy accused of beheading enemies of the South Pacific cartel was nabbed recently in the central Mexican state of Morelos.

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