Mexican marine, 3 gunmen killed in shootout

AP News
Posted: Oct 15, 2010 5:10 PM
Mexican marine, 3 gunmen killed in shootout

Mexican marines battled suspected drug cartel gunmen whose allies erected at least a dozen roadblocks in the northeastern city of Monterrey, authorities said Friday. One marine and three gunmen were killed.

The gunmen opened fire and threw grenades at a marine patrol Thursday night on a highway on the western city limits, according to a Navy statement.

At the same time, gang members used buses and other vehicles to block at least a dozen main avenues in downtown Monterrey, said Alejandro Garza y Garza, the attorney general of Nuevo Leon state, where Mexico's third-largest city is located.

Such blockades have become a common cartel tactic across northeastern Mexico to impede security forces from calling in reinforcements during shootouts. The region has become one of Mexico's most violent this year since a turf war broke out between the Gulf cartel and its former ally, the Zetas gang of hit men.

The Navy statement said it suspected the gunmen belonged to the Zetas.

Three marines were wounded, the Navy said. Two of the three gunmen who died perished when their car caught fire during the shootout. Marines seized three assault rifles, two handguns and ammunition after the gunfight.

The battle erupted just as Nuevo Leon state Gov. Rodrigo Medina was giving a speech at the Monterrey city hall on his first year in office.

"Many states, including ours, have been affected by the battles between criminal groups and between those groups and the authorities," Medina told an audience that included federal Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna. "This is a war that we did not start, that we did not bring to Nuevo Leon but that we must face."

Also Friday, Garza y Garza announced the arrest of two suspects in a grenade attack two weeks ago that injured 15 people at a plaza in Guadalupe, a town outside of Monterrey.

Garza y Garza said a tip led to the capture of two men who have confessed to participating in the attack. He said the person who gave the tip would get a 225,000 peso ($18,000) reward.

One of the men, a 21-year-old, said he was paid more than $5,000 pesos ($400) to accompany two other men to the plaza, Garza y Garza said. The man said they got out of an SUV and one of the other men tossed the grenade.

The second suspect said he was asked to circle around the plaza twice in a separate car to ensure no police were around, Garza y Garza said.

Six children, the youngest 3 years old, were among those injured.

It remained unclear if the assailants were deliberately targeting innocent bystanders.

Garza y Garza said investigators were unsure of the motive but were searching for three other suspects who might provide answers, including the gang's ringleader.

He said police know which gang the assailants belong to but declined to name it to avoid undermining the investigation.

Garza y Garza previously has said the attack may have been the work of drug cartels trying to cause chaos in revenge for recent arrests.