The Mexican army has stationed an entire battalion in a northern border town abandoned by most of its residents late last year amid a brutal turf war between the Gulf and Los Zetas drug cartels.

Soldiers began patrolling the area months ago, but it was only Monday that the troops formally moved into the newly constructed base in Ciudad Mier.

Hundreds of residents lined the town's main street to welcome the 652 soldiers of the 105th Battalion, one of three new military units deployed to the state of Tamaulipas.

Ciudad Mier and many other towns in the northeastern state have been found themselves caught in the crossfire after the March 2010 rupture of the alliance between the Gulf cartel and its former armed wing, Los Zetas.

Gunbattles - some lasting up to eight hours - between the criminal organizations forced about 7,000 people from Ciudad Mier and neighboring villages to move into a shelter in the city of Miguel Aleman.

By last month, however, some 4,800 residents had returned to Mier, thanks to the army patrols.

Life in the town is starting to return to normal, but the signs of violence are everywhere - on houses and businesses, on the exterior of the church, where bullet holes and broken windows can be seen, as well as in the dozens of closed businesses and abandoned houses.

A second army base is being built in San Fernando, Tamaulipas, where 72 migrants, the majority of them from Central America, were massacred by Zetas in August 2010, and a third base is under construction in Ciudad Mante, another strife-torn part of the state.

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