World

24 killed in western Mexico;
11 in one shootout

A series of shootings killed 24 people Saturday in a Pacific coast state plagued by drug gang violence. Nearly half died in one shootout between soldiers and armed men.

The gunbattle erupted when attackers opened fire on soldiers patrolling the small town of Ajuchitlan del Progreso, said Valentin Diaz, director of the Guerrero state investigative police. Ten gunmen and one soldier were killed, he said.

Diaz said the shootout broke out in the middle of the day in the center of the town as it was full of bystanders. He said state police were investigating and soldiers had reinforced security.

President Felipe Calderon has deployed tens of thousands of troops to Guerrero and other drug-trafficking hotspots across Mexico in an effort to root out cartels. Gang violence has surged since the crackdown began three years ago, claiming more than 17,900 lives.

Thirteen other people were killed in Guerrero in several other incidents before dawn, according to a state police report.

Two decapitated men were found on a scenic road packed with nightclubs in the resort city of Acapulco. Another man was found shot to death on the edge of the city.

Gunmen, meanwhile, killed five police officers on patrol in Tuncingo, a rural area outside Acapulco. In the same area, police found the bullet-ridden bodies of five other men, including two who had been beheaded.

Police mentioned no possible motives, and it was unclear if the killings were related.

Several cartels are fighting over drug dealing turf and trafficking routes in Guerrero. Gang violence occurs almost every day in the state, but Saturday was unusually bloody.

Farther to the south in the state of Chiapas, which borders Guatemala, a grenade explosion inside a car killed one man and wounded another. State prosecutors said the dead man was holding the weapon when it exploded.

Investigators believe the victim belonged to the Zetas drug gang and had been about to throw the grenade at federal police offices in the state capital, Tuxtla Gutierrez.

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