Seven people died in a nearly 15-hour battle between gunmen and soldiers in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, Mexico’s defense department said Monday.
The clash began around 9:00 p.m. Sunday when troops tried to search a house in Panuco, a town in the northern part of the state, the department said in a statement.
The troops, who went to the house after an anonymous tip about the presence of armed men, “were attacked with gunshots ... and grenades,” according to the official statement.
After hours of intermittent combat, the soldiers “neutralized the aggressors and entered the building” to find six gunmen dead inside. One soldier was killed and five others wounded, while six gunmen were arrested.
The troops also seized an AR-15 assault rifle, a machine pistol, two 9mm pistols and three vehicles, one of them armor-plated.
Besides the six gunmen and one soldier, a civilian non-combatant was found dead at the scene, Veracruz Attorney General Salvador Mikel Rivera said.
Much of Panuco, which sits next to the port city of Tampico, was without power early Monday and the town was being patrolled by soldiers and state police, the attorney general said.
The shootout in Veracruz began just hours after a mayor was slain in the neighboring Gulf coast state of Tamaulipas.
Marco Antonio Leal Garcia, mayor of the city of Hidalgo, was killed around 4:30 p.m. Sunday while driving with his daughter, Maria Esther Leal Valdez, the Tamaulipas Attorney General’s Office said.
Leal was pronounced dead at the scene, but his 10-year-old daughter is expected to recover fully from her wounds, prosecutors said.
The mayor was one of the municipal officials from the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, who took part in a meeting with Tamaulipas Gov. Eugenio Hernandez and Gov.-elect Egidio Torre Cantu, the state government said.
The governor-elect’s brother, Rodolfo Torre Cantu, was killed along with four other people by gunmen on June 28 while campaigning for the state governorship at the head of a coalition led by the PRI.
The gubernatorial candidate’s killing is believed to have been carried out by drug traffickers.
The 40-year-old mayor was finishing his term in office.
His killing came during a 48-hour period in which Tamaulipas was rocked by attacks in Ciudad Victoria, the state capital, Reynosa and Tampico that left at least 21 people wounded.
Two car bombs, three grenades and another type of bomb were used in the string of attacks.
Tamaulipas, which borders Texas, has been suffering from a wave of violence unleashed by drug traffickers battling for control of smuggling routes into the United States.
About 28,000 people have died in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon declared war on Mexico’s cartels shortly after taking office in December 2006.
More than 7,000 gangland killings, according to officials, have occurred this year in Mexico. The death toll for all of 2009 was 7,724.