Mexico: Soldiers kill 25 in gunbattle near border

A shootout between soldiers and suspected drug cartel members in northeastern Mexico left 25 purported gunmen dead Thursday, the military said.

A reconnaissance flight over Ciudad Mier in Tamaulipas state spotted several gunmen in front of a property, according to a statement from Mexico’s Defense Department.

When troops on the ground moved in, gunmen opened fire, starting a gunbattle that killed 25 suspected cartel members, according to the military. The statement said two soldiers were injured but none were killed.

Earlier, a military spokesman had said the shootout happened when troops on patrol in the town of General Trevino, in neighboring Nuevo Leon state, came under fire from a ranch allegedly controlled by the Zetas drug gang.

The spokesman, who was not authorized to be quoted by name, said the troops returned fire at a ranch, known as “The Stump.”

Authorities rescued three people believed to be kidnap victims in the raid, according to the statement. The military said troops seized 25 rifles, four grenades, 4,200 rounds of ammunition and 23 vehicles.

Drug violence has claimed more than 28,000 lives since President Felipe Calderon intensified a crackdown on cartels after taking office in late 2006.

The Zetas began as a gang of drug assassins but have since evolved into a powerful cartel. A fight between the Zetas and their former allies, the Gulf cartel, has increased drug violence in Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas states, according to government figures.

The Zetas are suspected of being responsible for the kidnapping and killing of 72 Central and South American migrants in Tamaulipas last week, in what could be Mexico’s biggest drug-related massacre.