Mexican army seizes nearly quarter-ton of opium

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    Mexican army makes large opium seizure

    MORELIA, Mexico — The Mexican army said Saturday it has seized a shipment of almost a quarter-ton of opium in the country's northern mountains, one of the largest such seizures made in Mexico.

    The 448 pounds (203 kilograms) of opium paste was found Thursday hidden in nine plastic containers in the township of Guadalupe y Calvo, in the border state of Chihuahua, the Defense Department said in a statement.

    Seven rifles, three pistols and nearly 10,000 rounds of ammunition were found along with the opium, which can be refined to make heroin. The army said it could have yielded 200,000 doses of heroin or similar drugs.

    The Defense Department called it "the largest seizure of opium paste ever in our country." However, police in the southern state of Guerrero seized 627 pounds (284 kilograms) of opium paste near the resort of Acapulco in 1999.
    Also Saturday, one policeman was killed and four wounded in an attack by gunmen in a drug-plagued part of southern Mexico.

    Gunmen opened fire on two police patrol vehicles responding to reports of a dead body left on a roadside. Authorities in the town of La Union, in Guerrero state near the border with Michoacan, said the unidentified gunmen fled following the attack. The victims were Guerrero state police officers.

    Another body was found in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz with its arms and legs mutilated and its head hacked off. The head was found in a plastic bag next to the body.

    A message left with the body read: "This is for showing disrespect for the letter 'Z'," a common reference to the Zetas drug gang.

    The body was wearing a state Public Safety department T-shirt, and assistant state prosecutor Jose Luis Peri said Saturday that authorities are investigating whether the victim may be a police officer.

    On Tuesday, federal police and navy personnel shot to death a top Zetas cartel suspect in the same area. The navy said suspect Braulio Arellano Dominguez was the reputed leader of the Zetas in Veracruz. The Zetas are a gang of hit men tied to the Gulf Cartel.

    In the border state of Baja California, prosecutors said Saturday that gunmen attacked a hotel used by federal police agents in the city of Tijuana. One civilian at the hotel was seriously wounded in late Friday's attack, but no police officers were hurt.

    Tijuana has been one of the areas affected by drug-related violence that has cost more than 13,800 lives since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against drug cartels in December 2006.

    Associated Press

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