Mexican soldiers apprehended three suspected drug cartel enforcers in two separate clashes with gunmen in the northern state of Tamaulipas, authorities said Friday.

In the first incident, armed men inside a home opened fire on a passing military patrol in the Ampliacion Rodriguez area of Reynosa, just across the border from McAllen, Texas.

"The military personnel repelled the aggression and managed to detain three of the aggressors, from whom they confiscated four rifles, 33 (ammo) clips, 816 bullets of various calibers, tactical equipment and a vehicle," the state government said.

Later Friday, armed assailants traveling in three pickup trucks, one of them with rudimentary armor plating, shot at an army patrol in the municipality of Camargo, located opposite Rio Grande City, Texas.

The soldiers returned fire, forcing the attackers to flee, according to the statement from the Tamaulipas government.

The gunmen left behind six rifles, nearly 1,400 rounds of ammo and the armored pickup.

Back in Reynosa, an air force officer was killed and two other military personnel injured Friday when their helicopter crashed at an army installation in the border city, the Defense Secretariat said.

An investigation is under way into the causes of the accident, the secretariat said.

Tamaulipas has been the scene of a fierce territorial struggle between the Los Zetas and Gulf drug cartels. 

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