VERACRUZ, Mexico – Police killed five gunmen suspected of belonging to a drug cartel in the Mexican Gulf state of Veracruz, officials said Sunday.
The shootout occurred on Saturday night in the northern part of the state, where state police launched a special operation to prevent drug traffickers from Tamaulipas state from entering Veracruz, the Veracruz state government said in a statement.
The federal government said last week it was implementing a new strategy in Tamaulipas to fight the Los Zetas and Gulf drug cartels, which have unleashed a wave of violence in the region.
Veracruz’s government has stepped up patrols along the border to prevent the cartels from moving into its territory.
A special police unit from the Veracruz Public Safety Secretariat received an anonymous tip that gunmen were in Alto Lucero, a city in the state’s mountainous northern region.
Officers launched a special operation to find the gunmen, who opened fire on police in the village of El Viejon, setting off a shootout that left five criminals dead.
“The peace officers responded (to the attack), resulting in the deaths of five suspected criminals, including a woman,” the Veracruz state government said.
Veracruz’s government has been working with the army and marines to hunt down the members of criminal organizations, especially those involved in kidnappings, this year.
Veracruz has been plagued by a turf war between rival drug cartels that has sent the murder rate skyrocketing in the past few years.
The Gulf, Los Zetas and Jalisco Nueva Generacion cartels, as well as breakaway members of the once-powerful Familia Michoacana organization, are fueling the violence in the state.
Veracruz, Mexico’s third most populous state, is coveted as a key drug-trafficking corridor to the United States, officials say.
The port city of Veracruz will be the site of the 24th Ibero-American Summit of heads of state and government and will host the 22nd Central American and Caribbean Games later this year.