23 May 2015

Mexican gang shoot-out kills 42 people

Two police officers and dozens of gang members are killed in a violent shoot-out in Mexico after security forces were ambushed by suspected drug cartel members.

Government security forces killed at least 42 suspected drug cartel henchmen in a three-hour firefight in western Mexico on Friday.

Two police officers were also killed in one of the bloodiest shootouts in a decade of gang violence wracking the country.

The gunfight started in the town of Tanhuato after security forces had been alerted to an “invasion” of a ranch.

When they approached, they were fired upon by a group of armed men suspected of belonging to the Jalisco New Generation (JNG) cartel.

The death toll was one of the heaviest to hit Mexico since President Enrique Pena Nieto took office in December 2012, pledging to put an end to years of gangland violence that has claimed more than 100,000 lives since 2007 alone.

Gang battleground

National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido told reporters that dozens of weapons were seized from the crime scene.

“The preliminary figure of weapons seized is 36 long arm rifles, two hand guns, one active grenade launcher, one calibre .50 rifle and an undetermined number of ammunition,” he said.

The pitched battle took place just inside the Michoacan state border with Jalisco, home of Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-biggest city.

After calling in air and ground support, government forces ground down their opponents with the aid of a helicopter, capturing three suspected gang members.

Jalisco state’s southern border has become a battleground between the JNG and the Michoacan-based Knights Templars, a gang whose leadership has been shattered over the past 18 months.

The JNG has become the biggest threat to the government, killing at least 20 police since March.

On 1 May, its gunmen shot down an army helicopter in southwestern Jalisco, claiming the lives of six military personnel.

The gang also set vehicles, banks and gas stations ablaze around Guadalajara in a series of concerted attacks that day, shaking confidence in the federal government’s ability to contain the violence ahead of mid-term elections on 7 June.