Four gunmen died in a shootout with army troops in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila, state prosecutors said.
An army patrol ordered an SUV to halt around 10:20 a.m. Monday near the city hall in Castaños, a town in the central part of the state, the Coahuila Attorney General’s Office said.
The vehicle’s occupants did not obey the order to stop and fled, setting off a chase and shootout, the AG’s office said.
More than 70 people inside city hall were evacuated and soldiers set up checkpoints at the entrance and exit to Castaños to prevent the criminals from escaping.
“Four suspected criminals died and a state police officer was wounded” in the incident, the AG’s office said.
The state police officer took part in the chase through the city, officials said.
Coahuila, which is on the border with the United States, has been the scene of a turf war pitting the Sinaloa and Gulf drug cartels against Los Zetas, a criminal organization that controls the state’s largest cities, including Saltillo, the state capital, Torreon and Piedras Negras.
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, considered Mexico’s most violent criminal organization, went into the drug business on their own account and now control several lucrative territories.
Los Zetas has been blamed for several massacres in recent years.
The cartel was accused of being behind the Aug. 23, 2010, massacre of 72 migrants, the majority of them from Latin America, at a ranch outside San Fernando, a city in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas.
Los Zetas has also been blamed for the massacre of 27 peasants in May at a ranch in Guatemala’s Peten province, which borders Mexico and Belize.