MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican marines battled alleged members of the Zetas drug cartel for more than five hours in northern Mexico on Friday, leaving 15 gang suspects dead and six marines wounded, authorities said.
The troops were on patrol in the town of San Jose de Lourdes in northern Zacatecas state when they came under fire from gunmen inside a safehouse, Mexico's navy said in a statement. It said 17 gunmen were detained.
The Zetas drug cartel began expanding into Zacatecas from the border state of Tamaulipas two years ago after it split from the Gulf cartel.
Clashes between troops and cartel gunmen have become common in Mexico's drug war, which has claimed more than 35,000 lives since President Felipe Calderon deployed thousands of federal troops and police to fight traffickers four years ago. The offensive led to a splintering of the country's cartels and increased fighting among gangs over territory.
Elsewhere in the north Friday, a spray-painted sign threatening death for U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents was found next to a school in the northern city of Chihuahua, officials said.