Mexican army soldiers detained 17 suspected Gulf cartel members and a Cuban man who was allegedly providing them with weapons training in the northeastern state of Nuevo Leon, officials said.

The purported Gulf cartel members in custody, all young people and six of them minors, had been working as "lookouts" and street dealers for the mob, a spokesman for the Nuevo Leon State Investigations Agency, or AEI, said Tuesday.

The troops detained the Mexican suspects and Cuban Roberto Rodriguez Sanchez on April 30 in the town of China, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the U.S. border, as they were travelling in two SUVs to a rural training camp.

Investigators say the idea was for the young detainees to join the ranks of Gulf cartel gunmen after the session, the spokesman said.

The troops confiscated a competition-quality .22-caliber pistol from Rodriguez that was to be used in the training, as well as two AK-47 assault rifles, a rifle, 18 ammunition clips and 410 bullets of different calibers.

According to the investigation, Rodriguez lived in Reynosa, Tamaulipas' largest city, while the young men were recruited by a woman in the rural town of Montemorelos, Nuevo Leon, and offered between 6,000-14,000 pesos ($450-$1,050) monthly.

In mid-March, army soldiers detained two Honduran ex-military men, 41-year-old Roger Ivan Lopez Davila and 21-year-old Carlos Alfredo Herrera Gomez, who had been in Mexico for two years training gunmen with Los Zetas.

The Gulf mob has been fighting Los Zetas, a band of Mexican army special forces deserters turned hired guns and drug traffickers, in northern and northeastern Mexico.

After several years as the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, Los Zetas went into the drug business on their own account and now control several lucrative territories.

The Gulf cartel was founded by Juan Nepomuceno Guerra in the 1970s and was later led by Juan Garcia Abrego, who was arrested in 1996 and extradited to the United States.

Osiel Cardenas Guillen later became the Gulf cartel's undisputed boss.

Cardenas was arrested in 2003, but he continued running the Gulf cartel, one of the most violent and powerful criminal organizations in Mexico, until his extradition to the United States four years later.

Antonio Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen took over the Gulf cartel's leadership following his brother's extradition to the United States.

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