Agua Caliente, Sinaloa - Army troops found a large underground arsenal in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa after a shootout with gunmen last weekend, the Defense Secretariat said.
Soldiers also seized arms and several vehicles in a separate operation in the central state of Zacatecas.
Troops on a reconnaissance mission last Friday in Agua Caliente, a town in Sinaloa, were attacked by gunmen, who managed to get away.
Soldiers conducted a close inspection of the area and found a road that led to the underground arsenal.
The arsenal contained 76 rifles, 34 handguns, 723 ammunition clips, 16,120 rounds of ammunition of different calibers, 20 silencers, three gas grenades, nine bullet-proof vests and 34 U.S.-made military uniforms, the secretariat said.
Sinaloa, the birthplace of many of Mexico’s drug lords, is controlled by Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel, but other criminal organizations have been fighting for control of smuggling routes into the United States that run through the state.
Honduran Security Minister Oscar Alvarez told Radio Formula last week that Guzman may be in an area of Honduras called El Paraiso.
Guzman, whose nickname refers to the fact that he stands less than five feet tall, was arrested in Guatemala in 1993 and pulled off a Hollywood-style jailbreak when he escaped from the Puente Grande maximum-security prison in the western Mexican state of Jalisco on Jan. 19, 2001.
The Sinaloa organization, which was founded in 1980, is the oldest drug cartel in Mexico and Guzman, considered extremely violent, is one of the most-wanted criminals in Mexico and the United States, where the Drug Enforcement Administration has offered a reward of $5 million for him.
Forbes magazine estimated last year that Guzman has a fortune of $1 billion, making him one of the richest people in the world, while Time magazine put him on its 2009 list of most influential people in the world.
Army troops operating in the central state of Zacatecas, where drug traffickers have also been fighting for turf, arrested two people for illegal arms possession in the city of Fresnillo.
The suspects had 28 rifles, 43 handguns, 7,203 rounds of ammunition and explosives in their possession, the secretariat said in a separate statement.
Soldiers also seized 10 police riot uniforms, 35 heavy trucks, 47 trailers, 10 tow trucks, 16 SUVs, three of which were armored, and a BMW, the secretariat said.
The suspects, moreover, had U.S.-made military uniforms, a vest with the logo of the Fresnillo municipal police department, 13,600 pesos (about $1,000) and 2.6 kilos of marijuana.
A tip about possible criminal activities led the soldiers to the suspects in Fresnillo.
Mexico has been plagued in recent years by drug-related violence blamed on powerful cartels.
Last year, according to the El Universal newspaper, was the deadliest in Mexico in the past decade, with 7,724 people killed in violent incidents attributed to organized crime groups.
So far this year, drug-related violence has claimed the lives of more than 1,400 people, the daily says. EFE