September 28, 2014 / 7:23 PM / in 3 years

At least 18 killed in shootings and clashes in Mexico

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Eleven men died in a gunfight in northern Mexico and at least seven people, including an opposition politician, have been killed in violence in the southwest of the country, authorities said on Sunday.

State prosecutors in the northern border state of Chihuahua said a shootout between rival gangs killed 11 suspected gang members near the town of Guachochi in southwestern Chihuahua.

The gunfight late on Friday was one of the bloodiest in recent months to hit northern Mexico, an area hotly disputed by drug gangs seeking control of smuggling routes where violence has eased since scaling record heights in 2010 and 2011.

Though killings of that magnitude are now rarer, they continue to create problems for the government. Last week, the attorney general’s office said it was investigating the deaths of 22 suspected gang members in a June shooting in central Mexico amid allegations the army may have executed them.

Police in Chihuahua found four burned out pick-up trucks at the scene of the firefight near Guachochi with four of the dead men’s bodies totally charred. About 1,000 spent cartridges were strewn around the area, prosecutors said.

Separately, a series of clashes extending from Friday into Saturday involving students, police and armed men in the southwestern town of Iguala killed at least six people and left some 20 injured, the government of Guerrero state said.

Some were shot, but the state government could not immediately say how all the victims had died. Local media said as many as eight people may have been killed in Iguala.

Guerrero’s government said 22 police officers had been arrested for investigation over the deaths in Iguala.

Also in Guerrero, Braulio Zaragoza, the local secretary general of the opposition conservative National Action Party (PAN) was shot dead in the beach resort of Acapulco on Sunday, a local government official said. The motive was unclear.

Zaragoza’s death came just days after the kidnapping and killing of a federal congressman for the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) from the western state of Jalisco.

The congressman’s death is still being investigated.

President Enrique Pena Nieto took office in December 2012 pledging to stamp out gang violence that has killed more than 90,000 people since 2007. But although the murder rate has fallen, parts of Mexico remain racked by bloody turf wars.

Reporting by Dave Graham and Miguel Angel Gutierrez; Editing by Nick Zieminski

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