Soldiers kill 11 gunmen in northeast Mexico

Published August 21, 2012

| EFE

Army troops killed 11 suspected gunmen in two shootouts in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, officials said.

The first shootout occurred around 8:00 a.m. Monday in Francisco I. Madero and Cruz y Carmen, two farming communities outside the city of Padilla, and left five suspected cartel gunmen dead, a Tamaulipas Attorney General's Office spokesman told Efe.

Six gunmen were killed a few hours later in a shootout with soldiers in the farming community of El Brasil, which is also located within the city limits of Padilla.

AG's office investigators went to the shooting scenes to gather evidence.

Cartel gunmen have been behind a series of violent incidents, including the murders of several gas station attendants, in the region over the past few weeks.

The army is carrying out "Operation Northeast" in the states of Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Coahuila and San Luis Potosi in an effort to weaken the drug cartels that operate in the region.

The Gulf drug cartel has been waging a war in northeastern Mexico against Los Zetas, a band of army special forces deserters turned hired guns and drug traffickers.

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 violence has spiked this month in Mexico, with the Mexico City daily Reforma reporting recently that 231 people were murdered across the country from Aug. 4 to Aug. 10, raising the death toll for the year to 6,309.

More than 50,000 people, according to official figures, have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since late 2006, when President Felipe Calderon took office and declared war on the country's powerful drug cartels.

Calderon has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers and Federal Police officers across the country to combat drug cartels and other criminal organizations.

The use of the armed forces to fight drug traffickers, however, has failed to stem the violence.

Mexico registered 27,199 murders in 2011, or 24 per 100,000 people, the highest number since Calderon took office, the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, or INEGI, said Monday.

The Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, which was founded by human rights activist and poet Javier Sicilia, puts the death toll from Mexico's drug war at 70,000. EFE

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