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Mexican army kills 25 drug suspects in shootout

At least 25 drug suspects were killed Thursday in a gunfight with the Mexican army near the U.S. border, military sources said.
Image: Soldiers stand next to weapons seized at a warehouse after a gunfight with drug gang members at a ranch near Monterrey
Soldiers stand next to weapons seized at a warehouse after a gunfight Thursday with purported drug gang members at a northeastern Mexico ranch near the U.S. border.Tomas Bravo / Reuters
/ Source: news services

A shootout between soldiers and suspected drug cartel members in northeastern Mexico left 25 purported gunmen dead Thursday, the military said.

A reconnaissance flight over Ciudad Mier in Tamaulipas state spotted several gunmen in front of a property, according to a statement from Mexico's Defense Department. The ranch is about 90 miles northeast of Monterrey, Mexico, and 80 miles southwest of McAllen, Texas.

When troops on the ground moved in, gunmen opened fire, starting a gunbattle that killed 25 suspected cartel members, according to the military. The statement said two soldiers were injured but none were killed.

Earlier, a military spokesman had said the shootout happened when troops on patrol in the town of General Trevino, in neighboring Nuevo Leon state, came under fire from a ranch allegedly controlled by the Zetas drug gang.

The spokesman, who was not authorized to be quoted by name, said the troops returned fire at the ranch, known as "The Stump."

Authorities rescued three people believed to be kidnap victims in the raid, according to the statement. The military said troops seized 25 rifles, four grenades, 4,200 rounds of ammunition and 23 vehicles.

Drug violence has claimed more than 28,000 lives since President Felipe Calderon intensified a crackdown on cartels after taking office in late 2006.

The Zetas began as a gang of drug assassins but have since evolved into a powerful cartel. A fight between the Zetas and their former allies, the Gulf cartel, has increased drug violence over smuggling routes in Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas states, according to government figures.

The Zetas are suspected of being responsible for the kidnapping and killing of 72 Central and South American migrants in Tamaulipas last week, in what could be Mexico's biggest drug-related massacre.

Investigators from the state justice office and agents of the State Ministerial Police traveled to the area to assist with the case, said Notimex, a Mexican news agency.

State and local officials gave no further details on the gun battle.

Violent area
Nuevo Leon is where business hub Monterrey is located, near the border with neighboring Tamaulipas.

The spiraling violence has prompted criticism of Caleron' policy recently, but the government scored a significant victory earlier this week when it captured drug lord Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez in a residential area outside of Mexico City.