NUEVOLAREDO, Mexico - The U.S. Consulate office in Nuevo Laredo is warning Americans about a recent spike in violence in the Mexican border city.

"Grenade detonations and gunfire occurred behind Crowne Plaza and Leandro Valle at 7:20pm, the Consulate said via Twitter. "Avoid area and maintain a low profile."

It s the latest clash between the Gulf Cartel and Zetas for control of the lucrative smuggling route to the I-35 Corridor.

At least seven people were killed in the recent week, including three U.S. citizens who live in the border area, according to officials. There are also reports of torched homes.

This is the latest flare up of violence in an area that is the home base for the Zetas. The group worked as enforcers for the Gulf Cartel before breaking away a few years ago. Authorities are bracing for more violence this weekend.

News about the violence is limited in Nuevo Laredo, where local media has been threatened into silence. Cartels have killed journalists who report on incidents, shoot video or photos at crime scenes.

The violence may be a topic of discussion on Facebook when the U.S. Consul General of Nuevo Laredo holds his regularly scheduled "Ask the consul" session Friday afternoon. The questions usually are about visas.

Before the drug war, the border city was a favorite tourist destination for Texans who would visit Nuevo Laredo to shop, dine and buy lower cost prescription drugs.

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