VERACRUZ, Mexico – Nine suspected criminals died in shootouts with the security forces in the Mexican Gulf state of Veracruz, officials said Thursday.
State police, army troops and marines launched an operation in Banderilla, a city about 300 kilometers (186 miles) east of Mexico City, to capture a gang of suspected kidnappers, state and VI Military Region officials said.
The criminals opened fire on security forces members, setting off a series of shootouts in Banderilla, located outside Xalapa, the capital of Veracruz.
The shootouts started at 1:00 a.m. and lasted 45 minutes, leaving nine people, including two women, dead, officials said.
Police, soldiers and marines rescued a person being held captive by the gang.
Security forces members seized two vehicles and firearms in the operation.
Veracruz has been plagued by a turf war between rival drug cartels that has sent the murder rate skyrocketing in the past few years.
The Gulf, Los Zetas and Jalisco Nueva Generacion cartels, as well as breakaway members of the once-powerful Familia Michoacana organization, are fueling the violence in the state.
Veracruz, Mexico’s third most populous state, is coveted as a key drug-trafficking corridor to the United States, officials say.
The port city of Veracruz will be the site of the 24th Ibero-American Summit of heads of state and government and will host the 22nd Central American and Caribbean Games later this year.