Dozens killed in Mexico violence

Clashes between soldiers and suspected gang members leave at least 30 dead in states of Tampaulipas and Nuevo Leon.

    More then 28,000 people were killed in drug violence since the government declared war on the cartels in 2006 [AFP]

    At least 30 suspected cartel members have been killed in two separate shootouts in northern Mexico, local media have reported.

    The first incident occurred in the state of Tamaulipas, when at least 25 people were killed after government soldiers stormed a training camp allegedly set up by the gang members.

    It was unclear if there were military victims among the 25 deaths.

    Hours later, five other suspected drug gang members were killed in the neighbouring state of Nuevo Leon.

    Drug war

    Officials have blamed a recent spate of shootouts, kidnappings and killings in Mexico on disputes between the Gulf gang and its former allies the Zetas.

    The northern border region of Mexico has seen an escalation of violence in recent months, including the massacre of 72 migrants last week.

    Luis Freddy, a wounded Ecuadoran survivor of the migrant massacre in Tamaulipas, pointed the finger at the Zetas.

    He said that two more people, including a pregnant woman, survived the slaughter.

    "There were 76 [people], including a woman nine months pregnant and her daughter, but they didn't kill those two. I don't know where they were taken, but I did not see them there," Freddy said.

    The killing of the migrants prompted leaders from around the region to hold a conference in Guatemala with the aim of clamping down on drug trafficking.

    "More then 28,000 people have been killed in drug related violence since the government declared war on the cartels in 2006," Al Jazeera's Franc Contreras, reporting from Mexico City, said.

    "One of the problems is Mexico's southern border with Guatemala, where you can see people in broad daylight crawling back and forth at will. They can move any sort of item they like - illegal merchandise, immigrants and even drugs."

    The continued violence comes as Felipe Calderon, Mexico's president, sought 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 gang strongholds across the country in late 2006.

    Extreme violence

    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.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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