Reporting from Mexico City — A kidnapping attempt in northern Mexico led to a highway car chase and gun battle that left seven gunmen and a federal police officer dead, Mexican authorities said.
The federal Public Safety Ministry said two kidnapping victims were freed after the late-Monday shootout with gunmen believed to belong to the drug-trafficking gang known as the Zetas.
Federal police in Coahuila state went to a shopping center in the city of Torreon after getting a report that two people had been taken captive. When the officers arrived, the suspects opened fire, authorities said.
One gunman was killed and another seriously wounded in the exchange of fire.
Police chased the remaining suspects down a highway, where another gunfight broke out. Six gunmen and the federal officer died during that exchange. Three officers were wounded.
Authorities said Mexican soldiers helped free the two kidnapping victims, who suffered light wounds.
The Zetas, once the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, have increasingly branched out on their own and are seen by Mexican authorities as one of the country's most brutal crime groups, known for gruesome tactics such as beheading victims.
In addition to drug trafficking, authorities say, the Zetas are involved in extortion, kidnapping, producing pirated CDs and DVDs, sales of alcohol and migrant smuggling.
The gang has been locked in a bloody turf war in western Mexico with a gang known as La Familia, which on Monday posted banners around the state of Michoacan calling on Mexicans to join its fight against the Zetas.
The highway shootout was the latest outbreak of violence in Torreon, which is the center of a region known as the Laguna, a major milk producer.
Early Sunday, 10 people died and 13 were wounded when four gunmen in a convoy burst into a Torreon bar and opened fire with high-powered weapons. Bodies were strewn on the sidewalk outside and inside the bar.
On Tuesday, a written message surfaced on YouTube that referred to the Sunday slayings. It warned Torreon authorities and residents against having anything to do with the Zetas, including patronizing bars that it said the gang runs.