Mexico City – Five suspected drug-cartel gunmen died in a shootout over the weekend with marines in the Gulf state of Veracruz, where a large number of military personnel and police have been deployed to contain a wave of drug-related violence, the Mexican Navy Secretariat said.
The incident occurred Friday in Tierra Blanca, located about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the port city of Veracruz.
Marines responding to a tip about armed people in Tierra Blanca were welcomed with gunfire as they entered the city.
A vehicle, firearms and ammunition were seized in the operation, the secretariat said.
Veracruz is dealing with a turf war between rival drug cartels that has left more than 100 people dead in the past month.
Residents of Veracruz city were stunned on Sept. 20 by the discovery of 35 bodies dumped on a busy thoroughfare.
The recent uptick in violence prompted the federal government to deploy the military to the city as part of "Operation Safe Veracruz."
The federal action also involves cleaning up local police departments and strengthening intelligence efforts to bolster security across Veracruz state.
The Gulf, Los Zetas, and the relatively new Jalisco Nueva Generacion cartels, as well as breakaway members of the once-powerful La Familia Michoacana crime syndicate, are fueling the violence in Veracruz, which is Mexico's third-most populous state and coveted as a key drug-trafficking corridor to the United States, officials said.
A total of 15,270 people died in drug-related violence in Mexico last year, and more than 40,000 people have died since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the country's cartels shortly after taking office in December 2006.