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25 slain in clash with troops

Three hostages are rescued and drugs and weapons are seized, the army says.

September 03, 2010|Tracy Wilkinson

MEXICO CITY — At least 25 people were killed Thursday in a gun battle between army troops and purported drug traffickers in the violent border state of Tamaulipas, just south of Texas, Mexican authorities said.

Troops pursued the gunmen near Ciudad Mier after they were detected by aerial patrols, the army said in a statement Thursday night. All of the dead were gunmen, the army said, and three kidnapping victims were rescued.

The army also confiscated drugs and weapons, the statement said.

In a separate development, Mexican news reports said a cousin of the owner of broadcasting powerhouse Televisa was kidnapped Thursday in Tamaulipas. State prosecutors would say only that Fernando Azcarraga Lopez was missing.

Interior Secretary Jose Francisco Blake Mora, asked about the reported kidnapping during an afternoon radio news program, neither confirmed nor denied it. "We are working on that," he said.

Azcarraga is a prominent businessman and former mayor of the Tamaulipas city of Tampico, where the news reports said he had been abducted by a commando as he left a restaurant.

The Gulf cartel is battling its former allies, the Zeta paramilitary gang, for control of Tamaulipas, plunging the state into chaos. In addition to a rash of car bombings, the leading candidate for governor was killed days before the election, and last week, traffickers massacred 72 immigrants from Central and South America.

One of the two survivors of the massacre, speaking in a television interview, implored his fellow Ecuadoreans to avoid attempting to reach the United States through Mexico. "The Zetas are killing a lot of people," Luis Freddy Lala Pomavilla said.

Also Thursday, President Felipe Calderon delivered his annual state of the union address in the ornate National Palace downtown.

He acknowledged that escalating violence is the most pressing concern facing Mexicans and that it threatens citizens' security and state institutions. But he urged Mexicans to fight on.

"I say with absolute certainty, it is possible to defeat the criminals," Calderon said.

Most of his speech, in which he reviewed the achievements of his administration, received only tepid applause, except when he praised the army for its role in the offensive against the cartels. Then, he received sustained applause, even from his political enemies in the audience, including the mayor of Mexico City and the Senate president.

The speech came a day after Calderon's official submission of the state of the union report to Congress.


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