Calderon in TV plea as violence surges in Mexico

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The Independent US

President Felipe Calderon appealed to Mexicans to support the fight against organised crime just hours after troops killed 15 suspected gang members, part of a surge in violence in which June looks set to become the deadliest month yet in his war against the drug cartels.

In a televised address to the nation on Tuesday night, Mr Calderon urged the public to report gang members. A phone number for anonymous tips flashed on the screen. "This is a battle that is worth fighting because our future is at stake," he said during the 10-minute address. "It's a battle that, with all Mexicans united, we will win."

Mr Calderon's message came a day after he published a column in national newspapers defending the crackdown on cartels, a fight that has seen more than 23,000 people killed since late 2006 when he began deploying thousands of troops and federal police to drug hot spots. Officials attribute much of the bloodshed to turf battles between cartels, but the gangs are increasingly turning to attacks on police and prosecutors.

Before Mr Calderon spoke, soldiers investigating suspicious activity came under fire from gunmen holed up in a house in the popular tourist town of Taxco in Guerrero state.

The Defence Department said no soldiers were hurt in the 40-minute shootout that left 15 gunmen dead. Twenty guns and two homemade explosives were recovered, a spokesman added.