21 killed as troops battle Mexican drugs cartel

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The Independent US

Mexican officials found five bullet-ridden and blood-stained vehicles yesterday, prompting a hunt for members of a drugs gang who escaped after a gun battle with police and soldiers that left 21 people dead.

Tuesday's shootout in the northern state of Chihuahua was part of a wave of killings that has engulfed Mexico, even spilling across the border into the US, as the army tackles drugs-related violence that killed 6,000 people last year.

The standoff began after gunmen kidnapped nine members of a rival gang in Villa Ahumada and killed six of them on a highway outside the town, 80 miles from the border with Texas. In the battle that followed the abductions, troops killed 14 gang members and one soldier was shot dead. The army rescued the remaining captives.

Villa Ahumada, a town of 1,500 people, was virtually taken over last year by drug lords who killed two consecutive police chiefs and two officers.

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