Nine people were killed and three others wounded in drug-related violence in Monterrey, the capital of the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, a state Security Council spokesman said on Sunday.
The first incident occurred around 2:30 a.m., when gunmen riding in a vehicle opened fire on the Cafe Iguana in downtown Monterrey, killing four people.
The gunmen fired assault rifles at a group of men standing outside the popular cafe.
Three of the men died in front of the cafe and another between some cars in the parking lot.
Unidentified individuals removed three of the bodies from the crime scene without any interference from the municipal police officers who had responded to the shooting.
Paramedics transported three people wounded in the attack to hospitals in Monterrey.
Soldiers patrolling the highway to Reynosa, a border city located east of the metropolitan area, were attacked around 3:30 a.m. when they ordered a vehicle to stop.
The vehicle’s occupants ignored the order to halt and opened fire on the soldiers, who gave chase.
The SUV crashed and burst into flames, killing the five men aboard.
Nuevo Leon and neighboring Tamaulipas state have been rocked by a wave of violence unleashed by drug traffickers battling for control of smuggling routes into the United States.
More than 1,300 people, including about 80 police officers, have died in the violence in Nuevo Leon in the past 14 months.
The violence intensified in the two border states after the appearance in Monterrey in early 2010 of giant banners heralding an alliance of the Gulf, Sinaloa and La Familia drug cartels against Los Zetas.
Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, known as “El Lazca,” deserted from the Mexican army in 1999 and formed Los Zetas with three other soldiers, all members of an elite special operations unit, becoming the armed wing of the Gulf drug cartel.
After several years on the payroll of the Gulf cartel, Los Zetas went into the drug business on their own account and now control several lucrative territories.
A total of 15,270 people died in drug-related violence in Mexico last year, and nearly 40,000 people have died since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the country’s cartels shortly after taking office in December 2006.
Calderon has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers and Federal Police officers across the country 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.