CHILPANCINGO, Mexico — Mexican troops clashed with the hitmen for suspected drug-traffickers in a cemetery leaving 15 people dead in a fierce shoot-out, as a spasm of violence rocks the country.
The gun battle in the tourist town of Taxco on Tuesday appeared to be the latest eruption in the Latin American nation's bloody drug wars which have now cost 160 lives in six days -- one of the deadliest weeks in some time.
The clashes left 15 assailants killed, the National Defense office said in a statement.
A military unit went to the town on a report of trouble, and was greeted with gunfire on arrival at a private home, the defense information office Sedena said.
Soldiers fought for about 40 minutes before the shooting subsided.
The latest clashes hit the southern tourist state of Guerrero, in the town of Taxco, some 170 kilometers (100 miles) south of Mexico City, and a popular draw due to its intricate silver handicrafts and jewelry.
Late last month a mass grave was also uncovered near the town, when 55 bodies dumped in an air shaft of an abandoned silver mine were found, in one of the largest such graves ever discovered in Mexico.
Guerrero state, on the Pacific coast, is an important transit point for illegal shipments of cocaine and heroin arriving from South America en route to the United States, the world's largest illegal drug market.
The gunmen involved in Tuesday's shoot-out were loyal to a drug lord named Edgar Valdez, better known as "La Barbie," the daily El Universal reported on its website, citing an unidentified police source
The US-born Valdez has been engaged since December in a bloody turf war for the control of the Beltran Leyva drug cartel.
It has become one of Mexico's bloodiest weeks in several months, with more than 160 people slain since Thursday around the country.
More than 40 people were killed Monday in separate attacks, including a prison riot between rival drug gangs in the northwestern city of Mazatlan which left 28 dead.
And Mexican authorities blamed the notorious "La Familia" drug cartel for a different outbreak of violence Monday when 12 police officers were killed in an ambush in western Michoacan state.
They were people from La Familia who were responsible, said Ramon Pequeno, head of the anti-drug unit.
The police came under fire as a convoy of uniformed officers traveled by car to Mexico City. Police officials said several assailants were also killed in the shoot-out.
In another recent attack, a drug cartel kidnapped 12 federal police officers, decapitated them and dumped their bodies on a busy highway.
Michoacan is President Felipe Calderon's home state, from where he launched a nationwide crackdown against drug-trafficking, deploying some 50,000 troops and police across Mexico, in December 2006.
Mexico is being rocked by an unprecedented wave of violence as powerful drug cartels vie for rich drug trafficking routes into the United States.
Nearly 23,000 people have been killed in the country since the crackdown began in 2006.
Mexican authorities meanwhile slapped a limit of 4,000 US dollars per month on bank deposits by individuals, aiming to thwart drug traffickers who use the US currency to stash away their illicit profits.
Officials also imposed a limit of 7,000 US dollars for deposits by Mexican businesses making deposits in greenbacks.
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