At least 10 people including a soldier and two police chiefs were killed between Friday afternoon and Saturday in the states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon in northern Mexico, in a number of incidents presumably involving organized crime, officials said Saturday.
The Tamaulipas information center said in a brief communique that “in Ciudad Victoria, the capital, an armed clash left four people dead, including one soldier,” in one of the bloodiest of recent incidents.
The bulletin said that at 8:00 p.m. local time Friday “a gun battle took place between armed civilians and elements of the National Defense Secretariat, or Sedena, at the junction of the Matamoros Highway and the Naciones Unidas Beltway.”
In the shootout, “one soldier and three civilians were reported killed and two civilians wounded.”
The Tamaulipas information center said in another communique published in the town of Mante that Saturday morning “the lifeless bodies of the commander and the group chief of the Ministerial Police stationed in this municipality were found” riddled with bullets.
The same agency also reported the discovery Friday afternoon of “the human remains of three people not yet identified, at the exit from the Victoria-Mante highway.”
Added to these deaths was that of an unidentified woman who was killed during an operation launched by soldiers of the 7th Military Zone near Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo Leon state.
In a communique, Sedena said that an anonymous tip led to the liberation of two kidnapped women in the Monterrey suburb of San Jeronimo.
Arrested in the operation was the suspected criminal who tried to escape by jumping from a height of some 12 meters (39 feet). He was captured and then hospitalized.
Another who was taken into custody was identified as Javier Alejandro Cabriales, from whom were seized 320 grams of marijuana, two rifles, ammunition and a vehicle, among other belongings.
Earlier, Mexican army soldiers rescued two kidnap victims in the northeastern border state of Nuevo Leon following a clash that left four suspected cartel gunmen dead.
The soldiers were patrolling the town of China, 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Monterrey, the state capital, when they came under fire from a group of Los Zetas gunmen traveling in several vehicles, an army statement said.
Four suspected cartel hit men were killed in the clash and a soldier was slightly wounded.
After the gunfight, the army soldiers located a ranch in which Los Zetas – a gang of military deserters who used to work for the Gulf cartel but have now branched out on their own – were holding two people captive.
Authorities found six rifles, two handguns, ammunition, seven fragmentation grenades and five vehicles in a search of the premises.
Such incidents are increasingly frequent in the wave of violence devastating Mexico and which to date in 2010 has left 2,157 dead nationwide, according to unofficial data published Saturday in the daily El Universal.
Mexican army soldiers and marines have stepped up operations against organized-crime groups in the country’s northeast, where Los Zetas are now battling an alliance of the Gulf and Sinaloa cartels.
In an attempt to halt the security offensive, Los Zetas – Mexican special forces veterans and deserters, many of whom are U.S.-trained – have responded by using buses, trucks and cars to block roads linking Nuevo Leon to the neighboring state of Tamaulipas to prevent the passage of military vehicles.
The security chief in Nuevo Leon, Luis Carlos Treviño, said that organized-crime groups carried out some 30 blockades of different city avenues.
“At midday and in the afternoon (on Friday), we counted 20 roadblocks in different parts of the city,” Treviño said, adding that all of the roads have since been cleared.
Elsewhere, Mexican marines captured Alberto Mendoza Contreras, alias “el Chico Malo” (The Bad Boy), the reputed head of the Beltran Leyva cartel in the Monterrey suburb of San Pedro Garza Garcia, the country’s wealthiest municipality.
The Navy Secretariat said in a statement that Mendoza Contreras also worked for leaders of other cartels and was captured along with Hugo Lopez Reyes in the Fuentes del Valle neighborhood of San Pedro Garza Garcia.
In a separate operation in Monterrey’s Valle del Mirador valley, marines arrested four people and seized weapons and ammunition.
Turf battles among drug cartels and the security forces’ struggle against the illegal trade have claimed nearly 19,000 lives in Mexico since December 2006, when current President Felipe Calderon took office.
Vowing to crush the cartels, Calderon has deployed 50,000 soldiers and 20,000 federal police to the country’s most conflictive areas, yet the pace of drug-related killings has only accelerated, from 2,700 people in 2007 to 7,724 fatalities last year.