Mexico City – At least 14 people were killed in drug-related violence in the northern state of Nuevo Leon and the southern state of Guerrero, Mexican officials said.
Four soldiers and five suspected gunmen died in separate incidents in Nuevo Leon, which borders the United States, the Defense Secretariat said.
A shootout between army troops and gunmen in six SUVs Tuesday near Doctor Coss, a city in southern Nuevo Leon, left two gunmen and two soldiers dead, and three other soldiers wounded, the secretariat said.
Several wounded gunmen were rescued by their comrades after the shooting, the secretariat said.
The bodies of two soldiers who were shot to death were found at kilometer 161 of the Monterrey-Reynosa highway near General Bravo, a city in Nuevo Leon, the Nuevo Leon State Investigations Agency said.
Three men, meanwhile, were gunned down in Apodaca, an eastern suburb of Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo Leon.
The killings were carried out by a group of gunmen who got out of a taxi and opened fire on the victims’ automobile.
More than a dozen men between the ages of 25 and 27 have been killed in recent days in Nuevo Leon in the war being waged by the Gulf and La Familia cartels against the rival Los Zetas criminal organization.
The violence has intensified in Nuevo Leon and neighboring Tamaulipas state since the appearance in Monterrey in February of giant banners heralding an alliance of the Gulf, Sinaloa and La Familia drug cartels against Los Zetas, a band of Mexican special forces deserters turned hired guns.
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 cartels arrayed against Los Zetas blame the group’s involvement in kidnapping, armed robbery and extortion for discrediting “true drug traffickers” in the eyes of ordinary Mexicans inclined to tolerate the illicit trade as long as the gangs stuck to their own unwritten rule against harming innocents.
The violence, however, has not been limited to northern Mexico.
At least five people, including a police officer and a minor, were killed in a shootout Wednesday afternoon between Federal Police officers and gunmen in Acapulco, a port city in the southern state of Guerrero.
The shootout occurred on Miguel Aleman Avenue, one of the main streets in the Pacific resort city, the Guerrero Public Safety Secretariat said.
A woman, her son, a taxi driver and a fourth civilian were caught in the crossfire and killed. Five other people were wounded by gunfire during the shootout.
Pedestrians ran into hotels and shops to escape the shooting, while motorists tried to drive away, causing a 15-vehicle pile-up.
The shootout lasted about 10 minutes, eyewitnesses said.
Four of the wounded are from Mexico City and the fifth person is an unidentified 8-year-old boy listed in critical condition at a hospital.
Acapulco has been the scene of a war in recent months between gunmen from the Beltran Leyva cartel and members of the Edgar Valdes Villarreal gang over control of the drug trade in the port.
Mexico has been plagued in recent years by drug-related violence blamed on powerful cartels.
The country’s most powerful drug trafficking organizations, according to experts, are the Sinaloa, Tijuana, Gulf, Juarez, Beltran Leyva and Los Zetas cartels, and La Familia Michoacana.
A classified report provided recently by the government to senators estimated 22,743 people have died since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels in December 2006.
Press tallies had put the number of people killed in drug-related violence since Calderon took office at 18,000.
The classified report estimates the death toll so far this year at 2,904.
Calderon has deployed 50,000 soldiers and 20,000 federal police nationwide to combat drug cartels and other criminal organizations.
The anti-drug operation, however, has failed to put a dent in the violence due, according to experts, to drug cartels’ ability to buy off the police and even high-ranking officials.