Suspected human traffickers abduct 17 migrants near US border, police say.
|Over 25,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since during Felipe Calderon’s term as president [Reuters]|
At least 25 people have been killed in clashes between soldiers and suspected drug gang members near the northern Mexican city of Monterrey, local media have reported.
The soldiers stormed a training camp allegedly set up by the gang members in a northern border region which has seen an escalation of violence in recent months, including the massacre of 72 migrants last week.
Thursday’s shootout occurred in the town of General Tervino, in Nuevo Leon state, the online edition of the El Universal daily reported on Thursday.
It was unclear if there were military victims among 25 killed, a defence ministry spokesman told the paper.
Officials blame a spate of shootouts, kidnappings and killings in the northeastern states of Nuevo Leon and neighbouring Tamaulipas on disputes between the Gulf gang and its former allies the Zetas.
A wounded Ecuadoran survivor of the migrant massacre in Tamaulipas, which was discovered last week, pointed the finger at the Zetas.
Bloody drug war
The continued violence comes as president Felipe Calderon tried to convince frustrated Mexicans to support an increasingly bloody drug war, saying that he knew that violence has surged under his term, but arguing that this was the price of confronting powerful and brutal cartels.
Calderon delivered his annual “state of the nation” address two days after the downfall of the country’s third major trafficker in less than a year.
“I know, I well know that among many citizens there is uncertainty and grief, but I tell them and I tell them all, with absolute certainty, that it is possible to control criminals,” he said in the address on Thursday.
Calderon has struggled to maintain support for a fight that was hugely popular when he first deployed tens of thousands of soldiers and federal police to cartel strongholds across the country in late 2006.
Since then, gang violence has become more shocking, with beheaded bodies hung from bridges and police discovering pits filled with dozens of slain cartel victims.
Both drug and human trafficking gangs often kidnap people for ransom in Mexico, where violence shows no sign of abating as gangs battle for control of smuggling routes.
Mexican government officials have said drug gangs are increasingly extorting and kidnapping migrants to raise money because the government clampdown on organised crime has eaten into their other sources of revenues.
Turf wars between Mexico’s seven major drug cartels and government forces have killed at least 28,000 people since Calderon was appointed president in 2006.