A clash between police and suspected cartel gunmen killed six officers in Mexico's southeast, just hours before a shootout between soldiers and gunmen in Acapulco on Monday left three people dead and ended in a fire that destroyed a supermarket, movie complex and stores in a shopping center.
The worst bloodshed was in the town of El Higo in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz _ near the violence-wracked state of Tamaulipas _ where municipal police officers on a routine patrol late Sunday ran into at least 20 gunmen on a dirt road and a firefight erupted.
Six officers, including one woman, died of gunshot wounds in the battle, Veracruz state interior secretary Gerardo Buganza said. The dead officers were hit by bullets from assault rifles, weapons favored by Mexico's drug gangs.
The police patrol was apparently outgunned. The officers carried only two assault rifles, two pistols and a shotgun. The attackers took the dead officers' weapons.
In the face of continued violence, the state government announced Monday that the Mexican army would establish a new base near El Higo.
Hours later across the country in the Pacific resort of Acapulco, a combined patrol of police and soldiers confronted a convoy of drug cartel gunmen outside a shopping center on the outskirts of the city. The stores were closed at the time.
State police in Guerrero state, where Acapulco is located, said a fierce gunbattle ensued in which a soldier and two gunmen were killed and six people were wounded: two suspected gunmen, two police officers, a soldier and a bystander.
A raging fire broke out about the same time, leading some to believe the gunmen may have been trying to burn down a street market at one side of the shopping center. Drug cartels frequently attempt to make such informal businesses pay protection money and burn them if the owners refuse.
The fire quickly spread to the shopping center and burned for almost four hours, consuming a grocery store and two U.S. chain outlets.
Shortly later, the severed heads of two men were found on Acapulco's main boulevard, near the beach resort area of Las Brisas. The men had not been identified, nor were their bodies immediately found.
Factions of the Beltran Leyva cartel have been fighting for control of Acapulco since the December 2009 killing of cartel boss Arturo Beltran Leyva.