Mexican army soldiers killed five suspected cartel enforcers in a gun battle in the northeastern state of Nuevo Leon, security officials said.

Troops patrolling the Monterrey-Nuevo Laredo highway came upon the five gunmen riding in an SUV, a source with the Nuevo Leon state security council told Efe Wednesday.

Upon seeing the soldiers, the gunmen tried to flee the scene but then collided with another military vehicle and began firing their weapons, the spokesperson said. All five men inside the SUV were killed in the ensuing clash, which took place in the town of Cienaga de Flores.

The soldiers then confiscated the vehicle, which had reportedly been stolen, as well as five rifles, ammunition clips and ammunition, communication gear and tactical equipment.

Nuevo Leon has seen a sharp uptick in violence since March 2010 involving heavily armed drug cartels, whose turf battles have left more than 1,300 dead this year.

More than 40,000 drug-war deaths have occurred in Mexico during the administration of President Felipe Calderon, who militarized the struggle against the cartels after taking office in December 2006.