A gun battle between Mexican soldiers and suspected drug cartel members left 22 dead at ranch near the US border, the Defense Department said Thursday.
All the dead were suspected gang members, the department said in a statement. One soldier was injured.
The military said the drug suspects provoked the gunfight Wednesday morning, opening fire on soldiers conducting reconnaissance patrols at a ranch on the outskirts of Ciudad Mier, a northeastern town about 18 miles (30 kilometers) south of the border with Texas.
Soldiers seized 55 grenades, 18 rifles, four handguns guns, 99 ammunition clips, 1,540 rounds of ammunition and vehicles at the ranch, the statement said. They also found military style uniforms, which are frequently used by drug gangs staging attacks.
The fighting erupted hours before celebrations started across Mexico for the bicentennial anniversary of its independence from Spain.
It did not disrupt festivities in the main cities in northeastern Mexico, where violence has reached war-like proportions this year amid a split between the Gulf cartel and its former gang of henchmen, the Zetas.
Gun battles erupt frequently between soldiers and gang members, who sometimes stage road blockades to disrupt military operations or keep security forces from calling in reinforcements during shootouts. Sometimes, assailants steal buses and even motorists out of their cars to use in the blockades.
Across Mexico, drug-gang violence has claimed an unprecedented 28,000 lives since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon deployed thousands of troops and federal police to fight the cartels in their strongholds along the US border and in Pacific coast states.
In the border city of Ciudad Juarez, gunmen ambushed two newspaper photographers in their car Thursday, killing one and wounding the other.