NUEVO LAREDO – A gunfight between military forces and alleged drug traffickers that lasted more than an hour in the predawn hours Wednesday left one soldier dead and at least three others injured, authorities confirmed Thursday.An unknown number of traffickers also were killed and injured, authorities said.
The assault occurred in Ciudad Mier, about 60 miles east of Nuevo Laredo, at about 1 a.m. Wednesday, said Gen. Rigoberto García Cortés, head of the border military forces headquartered in Nuevo Laredo, at a news conference Thursday.
The national Defense Department reported that after the gunfight, soldiers searched two sport utility vehicles abandoned at the scene and found 29 assault rifles, nine handguns, more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition, 175 magazines, $138, 58 pesos, 16 cell phones, 10 walkie-talkies, seven Nextels and seven cartridge belts. Another four vehicles left at the scene also were confiscated.
García Cortés said gunmen went down, but their bodies were picked up by their companions and taken away, so exact numbers were not available.
According to officials, about 20 suspected drug traffickers riding in a convoy of five vehicles approached a checkpoint set up by soldiers on the highway going through Ciudad Mier.
Asked to stop, the men riding in the convoy instead attacked, sparking a major crossfire between the soldiers and the suspected traffickers.
Shortly after the gunfire ended, about an hour an a half later, the gunmen fled, taking their dead and/or injured companions with them. Meanwhile, the soldiers sought to take care of their own wounded.
Antonio Hernández Montalvo died of a bullet wound to the head while he was being transported to a local hospital, authorities said. Soldiers Mauricio Encino Pérez, Juan López Montalvo and José Demecio Martinez Pérez suffered unnamed injuries and were taken to a military hospital in Monterrey under heavy protection.
“The (traffickers’) vehicles were abandoned at different points, where we found enough blood that we know there were serious injuries,” the general said. “We did not arrest anyone. As they fled, they were covered by other groups.”
García Cortés brushed aside rumors that the battle was between rival Mexican military men.
“We understand that they are trying to conduct a campaign to disparage our military forces,” the general said. “But the truth is that we have vigorously pressed our campaign against organized crime. We are decimating their forces, their money and their drugs.”
He noted that while no arrests were made in this particular case, hundreds of people involved in illegal activities have been arrested across the nation.
“Our battle is direct. We are not going to cede territory that we have gained,” García Cortés said. “We are reaching the most important cells in these organizations.”
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