Army troops killed 13 suspected drug cartel gunmen in three separate shootouts in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, the Defense Secretariat said.
Three suspects were arrested and soldiers seized three grenade launchers, 22 rifles, two handguns, 181 ammunition clips and 465 rounds of ammunition following the shootouts on Friday, the secretariat said.
Six gunmen were killed in Santa Apolonia, a community within the city limits of Valle Hermoso, and another in Nuevo Laredo, , located across the border from Laredo, Texas.
No details were provided on where the other six gunmen were killed.
Troops from the 8th Military Zone were attacked in each case and repelled the assailants “in defense of their physical safety,” the Defense Secretariat said.
Gen. Manuel Farfan Carreola, the recently appointed police chief of Nuevo Laredo, his personal secretary and four bodyguards were murdered last week.
The bodies of Carreola, who had been in his post for 33 days, and the five other victims were found in the border city.
The police chief and his companions were apparently killed late Wednesday.
The violence has intensified in Tamaulipas and neighboring Nuevo Leon state since the appearance in Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo Leon, in February 2010 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 kidnappings, armed robbery and extortion for discrediting “true drug traffickers” in the eyes of ordinary Mexicans willing to tolerate the illicit trade as long as the gangs stuck to their own unwritten rule against harming innocents.
More than 34,000 people have died in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon declared war on Mexico’s cartels shortly after taking office in December 2006.
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.