Eleven people were killed over the past 24 hours in northern Mexico, five in clashes between soldiers and suspected gang members in Ciudad Victoria and six more in violent incidents in the industrial city of Monterrey, officials said.
In Ciudad Victoria, capital of the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, a shootout erupted Wednesday after a military patrol tried to search an SUV carrying several armed men.
The state Attorney General's Office said a pursuit began shortly after 2:00 p.m. when the vehicle sped away, leading to an exchange of high-caliber weapons fire.
Other vehicles with suspected cartel members on board joined the SUV in fleeing from the state police and soldiers. At least three of the vehicles were damaged during the pursuit, which stretched over several avenues in the Tamaulipas capital.
The state Attorney General's Office said three purported criminals were killed by soldiers at a public square and two others were slain on another avenue.
Elsewhere, two traffic police and four other people were killed in Monterrey, capital of the neighboring state of Nuevo Leon, the State Investigations Agency, or AEI, reported.
The first incident occurred around 4:20 p.m. Wednesday when two minors aged 15 and 16 and a 30-year-old man were riddled with bullets at a home by suspected gang members, the AEI told Efe.
A few minutes later, unknown assailants kidnapped and decapitated another individual and left his body on a road.
A human head - which presumably belonged to that same victim - was then found on a bridge. The bodies of two traffic cops also were found 100 meters (yards) away although it remains unclear if their deaths were related to that other killing.
The police were slain while carrying out a routine inspection of a car that the suspected hit men had used.
Nuevo Leon has been battered by a wave of drug-related violence in recent years blamed on a turf war between the Los Zetas and Gulf cartels for control of smuggling routes into the United States.
The wave of drug-related violence in Nuevo Leon claimed the lives of roughly 2,000 people in 2011, official figures show.
Conflict among rival cartels and between criminals and the security forces has claimed more than 50,000 lives in Mexico since December 2006, when newly inaugurated President Felipe Calderon - whose term ends in December - militarized the struggle against drug trafficking. EFE