MEXICO CITY – Shootouts between marines and drug cartel gunmen left an enlisted man and three criminals dead in Xalapa, the capital of the eastern Mexican state of Veracruz, the Navy Secretariat said Sunday.
The shootouts occurred on Friday, with the first one taking place in the city’s 12 de Diciembre section, where marines repelled an attack and killed three suspected gunmen, the secretariat said.
Marines seized four AK-47 assault rifles, four ammunition clips for a .50-caliber Barrett rifle, a bullet-proof vest and a vehicle after the shootout.
A marine was killed by gunmen when his three-man patrol went to Xalapa’s Fovisste neighborhood to follow up on a tip.
The gunmen, who were apparently wounded in the shootout, managed to drive away from the scene.
Attacks on marines have increased in recent months in Veracruz, where military personnel have been kidnapped and killed since the Navy Secretariat expanded its role in the war on drugs.
Several drug cartels, including the Gulf cartel and Los Zetas, operate in the eastern state.
Marines arrested 13 suspected Zetas drug cartel members, including a man who allegedly killed a marine, in Veracruz on Sept. 9.
The suspects confessed that they belonged to Los Zetas and told investigators they trafficked drugs in Veracruz, smuggled migrants, staged kidnappings and ran extortion rackets, all of which are considered the cartel’s main criminal activities.
One of the suspects, Hector Tejeda Vazquez, killed a marine whose body was found in June in Playa de Vaca, the Navy Secretariat said.
Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, known as “El Lazca,” deserted from the Mexican army in 1999 and formed Los Zetas with three other soldiers, all members of an elite special operations unit, becoming the armed wing of the Gulf drug cartel.
After several years on the payroll of the Gulf cartel, Los Zetas, considered Mexico’s most violent criminal organization, went into the drug business on their own account and now control several lucrative territories.