Marines killed six suspected criminals in two shootouts in Xalapa, the capital of the Mexican Gulf state of Veracruz, the Navy Secretariat said.

Five other people were arrested following the shootouts on Tuesday and marines seized three vehicles, seven rifles, a handgun, 900 rounds of ammunition and four grenades, the secretariat said.

Marines and Veracruz state police dismantled a suspected Los Zetas drug cartel cell, the secretariat said.

The shootout occurred near the limits between Xalapa and the city of San Andres Tlalnelhuayocan.

Intelligence reports indicated that drug traffickers were meeting at a house in Xalapa's Lomas de Chapultepec section, located about two kilometers (1.24 miles) from Tlalnelhuayocan, the secretariat said.

A police aircraft spotted a group of armed individuals attempting to flee in a vehicle and opening fire on the marines.

"Navy personnel immediately repelled the attack, killing five criminals, who had five AR-15 rifles, 25 full ammunition clips and 750 rounds of ammunition, among other items," the secretariat said.

The police aircraft spotted another group of armed subjects and notified the marines, who went to investigate and took fire.

A suspected criminal died and five others were arrested in the second shootout, which led to the seizure of two rifles, a handgun and four grenades, the secretariat said.

A special operation was launched to try to capture other individuals suspected of taking part in the shooutouts, the Veracruz Attorney General's Office said.

Veracruz has been plagued by a turf war between rival drug cartels that has sent the state's murder rate skyrocketing over the past two years.

The federal government launched "Operation Safe Veracruz" last October in an effort to stem the wave of drug-related violence in the Gulf state.

On June 12, police found the remains of 14 people stuffed into an abandoned SUV on the Alamo-Potrero del Llano state highway near Los Cuates, a ranch in northern Veracruz close to the border with Tamaulipas.

The Gulf, Los Zetas and Jalisco Nueva Generacion cartels, as well as breakaway members of the once-powerful La Familia Michoacana organization, are fueling the violence in the state.

Veracruz, Mexico's third-most populous state, is coveted as a key drug-trafficking corridor to the United States, officials say.

President Felipe Calderon declared war on Mexico's drug cartels shortly after taking office in December 2006, deploying tens of thousands of soldiers and Federal Police officers across the country to combat drug cartels and other criminal organizations.

The death toll in Mexico's drug war stands at more than 50,000 since 2006. EFE