At least three suspected drug-cartel gunmen were killed in an attack over the weeekend on a police facility in Boca del Rio, a city in the Mexican Gulf state of Veracruz, state officials said.

At least six gunmen attacked the Veracruz-Boca del Rio Intermunicipal Police Department's headquarters, located in a popular tourist area, on Sunday morning and then fled, state officials said.

The building in Boca del Rio, a suburb of Veracruz city, was damaged by gunfire, but no officers were hit.

Municipal police, army troops and marines launched an operation to try to capture the fleeing gunmen, resulting in a series of shootouts in the streets of the city's northern section.

The gunmen were cornered at the intersection of Icaso and Netzahualcoyotl streets, where the security forces managed to kill three of them.

At least three other gunmen managed to escape during the shootout, state officials said, adding that police found assault rifles and grenades in vehicle left behind by the criminals.

The Gulf, Los Zetas and 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.

The violence has surged in the past two months, leaving more than 150 people dead and prompting the Calderon administration to deploy federal forces under "Operation Safe Veracruz."

The operation also seeks to clean up local police departments and strengthen intelligence efforts to bolster security across the state.

The wave of violence in Veracruz has been marked by several massacres.

The bodies of 35 people were dumped Sept. 20 on a busy road in Boca del Rio in an apparent challenge to the violent Los Zetas drug cartel.

On Oct. 6, 32 corpses were found at drug-gang "safe houses" in the Veracruz-Boca del Rio metro area, while 10 bodies were found a day later in the tourist area.

The mass dumping of bodies was the first such incident in Veracruz, indicating that the violence in the northern part of the state along the borders with Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosi and Hidalgo states has now spilled over into the region, officials said.

Boca del Rio is the top tourist destination in the Veracruz area and home to some wealthy neighborhoods.