7 Mexican agents are killed in shootout

The Baltimore Sun

MEXICO CITY - Seven Mexican federal agents looking for an arms cache died early yesterday in a shootout with gunmen in the northern state of Sinaloa, officials said.

The agents came under fire when they went to search a home in Culiacan, the state capital. Four other agents were wounded.

At least one gunman was killed in the confrontation, which came as a wave of drug-related violence has washed over Mexico. Two suspects were arrested, the federal Public Security Ministry said.

The state has registered more than 200 killings this year, mainly as a result of a power struggle in one of Mexico's biggest drug gangs, the so-called Sinaloa cartel.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon dispatched 2,000 soldiers and federal agents to Sinaloa two weeks ago, the latest deployment in his government's 18-month-old drive against organized crime.

Drug-trafficking gangs have struck hard at police since the crackdown began. A faction of the Sinaloa group is suspected in the assassination in Mexico City this month of the Federal Preventive Police agency's acting chief, Edgar Millan Gomez.

Calderon argues that the ferocity of the attacks against the government is a sign that the administration is making headway in an anti-crime campaign he often refers to as a "war."

The nation's attorney general, Eduardo Medina Mora, said last week that 1,378 people had died this year in drug-related violence. That number is 47 percent higher than the murder rate during the same period in 2007.

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