GENERAL TREVIÑO, Mexico – A total of 27 gunmen with the violent Los Zetas cartel were killed in a clash with army soldiers in northern Mexico, a spokesman for the 7th Military Zone told Efe.
The gun battle occurred Thursday at a ranch some 15 kilometers (9 miles) east of General Treviño, a town in Nuevo Leon state near the border with the neighboring state of Tamaulipas.
A military helicopter spotted the ranch – located in an area rife with drug trafficking – and the presence there of armed men, prompting a raid in which the soldiers were met by gunfire.
The clash began around 11:00 a.m. local time (1600 GMT) and lasted close to an hour and a half at the ranch and the surrounding area.
Some cartel enforcers tried to hide in the trees but were shot dead. All of the gunmen were slain.
The spokesman for the 7th Military Zone had said earlier Thursday that at least 25 members of Los Zetas were killed at the ranch.
Los Zetas, one of the country’s most ruthless drug gangs, are a band of Mexican special forces deserters who originally worked as hired guns for the Gulf cartel but are now in the drug business on their own and control several lucrative territories.
Army soldiers also rescued three people who had been kidnapped and were being held on the property; they also seized 25 rifles, four grenades, thousands of rounds of ammunition and 23 vehicles, two with military colors.
The gunmen wore military-style uniforms, some with bullet-proof vests. According to military sources, the ranch was used as a camp where members of Los Zetas took refuge and trained.
The northern border state of Nuevo Leon has seen an uptick in violence since the early part of this year, the result of a turf battle between Los Zetas and the Gulf cartel that began in Tamaulipas.
In February, giant banners heralding an alliance of the Gulf, Sinaloa and La Familia drug cartels against Los Zetas appeared in the northern city of Monterrey.
The cartels arrayed against Los Zetas blame the group’s involvement in kidnapping, armed robbery and extortion for discrediting “true drug traffickers” in the eyes of ordinary Mexicans inclined to tolerate the illicit trade as long as the gangs stuck to their own unwritten rule against harming innocents.
Gunmen working for Los Zetas have been accused of carrying out the recent massacre of 72 illegal immigrants, who were discovered last week at a ranch in Tamaulipas.
More than 200 drug-related murders and kidnappings have occurred in Nuevo Leon since January, while Monterrey, the state capital and Mexico’s third-largest city, has also been hard hit by the violence. EFE