MEXICO CITY (AP) - Suspected cartel gunmen wounded two soldiers in an unprecedented grenade attack on army housing in northern Mexico, the latest sign that drug gangs are increasingly turning to open warfare tactics against the military.
The gunmen fired the grenade from a rifle at a camp where soldiers live with their families outside the Gulf coast city of Tampico, the Defense Department said in a statement Tuesday.
The two wounded soldiers were treated, but none of their relatives was harmed in the attack Monday.
The Defense Department reiterated its stance that cartels are acting out of desperation in the face of army successes in the drug war.
"Members of organized crime staged a cowardly attack with a rifle-fired grenade," the department said. "These types of aggressions demonstrate that the structure of organized crime has been eroded, provoking desperate acts like attacking families of the armed forces."
Soldiers pursued the assailants but only found their abandoned car, with five guns and a grenade inside, the statement said.
Army positions have repeatedly come under attack in recent weeks
in the northwestern states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon, which
border Texas. Cartel gunmen have ambushed military patrols on
highways and thrown up street blockades in front of army garrisons.
The fighting has occurred amid a split between the Gulf cartel
and its former ally, the Zetas drug gang. Experts say the gangs may
be trying to get the army out of the way of their fight over
control of drug trafficking routes in the region.
So far, no soldier has been killed in the latest wave of
confrontations, while drug gang have suffered heavily losses.
Eighteen assailants were killed in seven different shootouts in one
day last week. Civilians have been caught in the crossfire,
including two children ages 5 and 8, who were killed over the
While cartels lack the training of the military, they have the
firepower: soldiers have seized dozens of grenades, semi-automatic
rifles and even homemade explosives at the scene of the gunbattles.
Meanwhile, seven prison guards were arrested for alleged
complicity in a jailbreak last week in Reynosa, a Tamaulipas city
that borders McAllen, Texas, the attorney general's office
announced in statement Tuesday.
Authorities initially said 13 prisoners escaped, but the
statement Tuesday said only 12 did.
The Tamaulipas state government said gunmen drove up in 10 cars
and exchanged gunfire with guards. Three inmates were killed, but
it was unclear who shot them.
Tamaulipas state Gov. Eugenio Hernandez said Tuesday he asked
the federal government for help in guarding state prisons holding
inmates who have committed federal offenses because "state
authorities don't have the capacity to prevent jailbreaks."
The Interior Department said in a statement late Tuesday that
corruption and collusion with organized crime by some government
officials contributed to the recent jailbreaks in Tamaulipas. It
said the jailbreaks "are not proof that criminals prevail over
institutions" and it encouraged the Tamaulipas government to
punish those responsible.
Elsewhere, five men were killed when gunmen opened fire on their
car Monday outside a shopping mall in Mazatlan, a city in the
northeastern state of Sinaloa, said Martin Gastelum, a spokesman
for the state attorney general's office.
In the Pacific coast state of Guerrero, police found the bodies
of two men who were shot to death and had their hands and feet
bound with tape, authorities said.
Police found the decomposing bodies Tuesday in a ravine in the
town of Chilapa de Alvarez after receiving an anonymous tip,
Guerrero state Public Safety Department said in a statement.
Both men were wearing military boots and police found M-16 shell
casings at the scene, it said.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)