Tanhuato de guerrero | Mexican federal forces has killed at least 42 suspected cartel members during a three-hour gunfight on a ranch in a violence-torn western region, marking one of the drug war’s bloodiest battles.
Only one federal police officer was killed in the operation yesterday, which authorities launched after learning that armed criminals were occupying the ranch in Tanhuato, Michoacan state, near the neighboring state of Jalisco, officials said.
Up to now, we have counted 42 suspected criminals killed and three more detained, said National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido. Rubido said the death toll was a preliminary figure, suggesting the number could rise as investigators comb the vast property.
While he did not name the gang by name, Rubido said it was based in Jalisco, home of the New Generation drug cartel, a powerful heavily armed group that has become the top target of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s administration. The cartel, which has links to gangs as far away as Asia and trafficks drugs to the United States, has taken Mexican authorities head-on this year, killing 20 police officers in two ambushes in March and April.
`On May 1, the government launched Operation Jalisco against the cartel. That same day, the gang killed seven troops and a policewoman when they downed a military helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade. The clash began when troops and police spotted a carload of gunmen, who shot at the security forces and fled into the ranch, Rubido told reporters.
Warned about the presence of federal forces, the rest of the suspected criminals who occupied the property began to attack our comrades with intensity, he said. The clash went on sporadically for about three hours, in at least three points in the property, Rubido said, adding that a federal police helicopter was called in to back up the land forces.
The suspects dispersed into fields, which complicated the operation, Rubido said, noting that the ranch measures 112 hectares and includes a house and a warehouse. The warehouse and six vehicles burned during the gunfight.
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