Mexican army soldiers detained eight purported members of the Gulf drug cartel during an operation in the small northeastern town of China, the Defense Secretariat said.

The troops taking part in the ground recon operation in Nuevo Leon state seized four rifles, a handgun, three hand grenades, 881 rounds of ammunition of different calibers, 34 ammunition clips for different weapons, a kilo of white powder (apparently cocaine), two vehicles and tactical and communications gear from the suspects, the secretariat said Thursday in a statement.

The detainees may be linked to the massacre of 49 people whose mutilated bodies were found on May 13 in Cadereyta, a city outside the Nuevo Leon state capital of Monterrey, local media cited officials as saying.

The Mexican government blames the massacre on a multi-state turf war pitting an alliance of the Gulf and Sinaloa cartels against the rival Los Zetas mob.

Interior Secretary Alejandro Poire said recently the massacre in Cadereyta could be related to other multiple homicides in previous weeks in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, the northwestern state of Sinaloa and the western state of Jalisco.

More than 50,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon took office five-and-a-half years ago and militarized the struggle against the country's numerous, well-funded drug cartels.