13 killed in Mexico clashes

April 17th, 2009 - 1:11 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Mexico City, April 16 (EFE) At least 13 people have been killed in a gunbattle between the military and suspected drug traffickers in southern Mexican state of Guerrero, authorities said Thursday.
The clash occurred Wednesday in San Nicolas del Oro, a town near the city of San Miguel Totolapan, during an operation by the security forces in the remote area, Guerrero’s Public Security Minister Juan Heriberto Salinas Altes said.

He said the clash started when the suspected drug traffickers opened fire on a military patrol near the town.

“Twelve suspected gunmen and an army soldier died in the shootout,” prosecutors told EFE, adding that the soldiers seized 20 assault rifles, several pistols, explosives from nine vehicles they were travelling in.

The shooting happened just hours ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit to the country. Obama was set to arrive in Mexico City Thursday, for a brief visit focused on the fight against drug gangs.

Mexico has been plagued in recent years by drug-related violence, with powerful cartels battling each other and the security forces, as rival gangs vie for control of lucrative smuggling and distribution routes.

Armed groups linked to Mexico’s drug cartels murdered around 1,500 people in 2006 and 2,700 people in 2007, with the 2008 death toll soaring to more than 6,000.

So far this year, more than 1,750 people have died.

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