CHILPANCINGO, MEXICO -- At least 26 people were killed in Mexico over the weekend in separate incidents, including 10 who died in a shootout between soldiers and gunmen in Guerrero state and five murdered at a bar in Ciudad Juarez.
Ciudad Juarez, located across the border from El Paso, Texas, is considered the country's most violent city, with more than 1,400 murders reported this year.
Gunmen burst into Alamo's bar in Juarez early Sunday and opened fire, killing five people and wounding four others.
This was the second attack of this type in less than two weeks. On Nov. 28, gunmen murdered eight men at a seafood restaurant in the border city, which is in Chihuahua state.
A couple and a man were shot to death in separate incidents while driving in Ciudad Juarez.
Three bodies were also found in Juarez, including one dumped in a soccer field and two others in the city's southeast section.
The victims, who were between 25 and 30, were wrapped in blankets and their hands and feet had been tied, a trademark of the gunmen who work for Mexico's drug cartels.
In Tecate, a city in the northwestern state of Baja California, two people were gunned down and a third wounded in a shooting on Saturday night.
Army troops, meanwhile, battled gunmen in a series of clashes in Palos Blancos, a town in the southern state of Guerrero.
A soldier and nine gunmen were killed in the running gunbattles, which lasted about half a day and also involved police.
Soldiers, along with federal, state and municipal police officers, responded when a shootout started between rival gangs, the Public Safety Secretariat said.
When they arrived at the scene, the security forces were greeted by gunfire and engaged the gunmen in the series of shootouts, which also left two police officers wounded.
The gunbattles started at around 3:00 a.m. Sunday and did not end until about 2:00 p.m.
After the shooting ended, police conducted a search and found a body in an abandoned vehicle, and seized 10 other automobiles, 14 rifles, five pistols and two hand grenades.
The crime scene in Palos Altos has been cordoned off by some 400 soldiers and police officers.
In Chilpancingo, the capital of Guerrero, two heads and a threatening message were found in a bucket near the Technical Institute.
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 into the United States.
Armed groups linked to Mexico's drug cartels murdered around 2,700 people in 2007 and 1,500 in 2006, with the death toll this year already at more than 5,000, according to press tallies.
The majority of the killings have occurred in the states of Chihuahua, Baja California and Sinaloa.
Experts say that Mexico's most powerful drug trafficking organizations are the Tijuana cartel, the Gulf cartel and the Sinaloa cartel. Two other large drug trafficking organizations, the Juarez and Milenio cartels, also operate in the country.
Tackling the problem of drug-related violence, according to experts, is a major challenge both because of Mexico's notoriously corrupt security forces and because honest police officers are fearful of taking on the heavily armed drug mobs.
Since taking office in December 2006, President Felipe Calderon has deployed more than 30,000 soldiers and federal police to nearly a dozen of Mexico's 31 states in a bid to stem the wave of violence unleashed by drug traffickers.
The anti-drug operation, however, has failed to put a dent in the violence due, according to experts, to drug cartels' ability to buy off the police and even high-ranking prosecutors.
The Attorney General's Office recently began investigating its own staff, particularly the SIEDO organized crime unit's members and the Federal Investigations Agency, Mexico's equivalent of the FBI.
As part of the probe, begun after a protected informant revealed links between drug cartel kingpins and police, a dozen high-ranking officials, including erstwhile drug czar Noe Ramirez, have been arrested.
The initial investigation concluded that Ramirez received $500,000 a month for sharing intelligence with drug lords.