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Mexico gun battle claims 16 lives

MEXICO CITY – A shootout between Mexican troops and a convoy of gunmen left 15 assailants and one soldier dead hours before President Obama arrived in the country to support the fight against drug cartels.

The shootout occurred in a remote, mountainous region of Guerrero state, where the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco sits, Mexico’s defense department said in a statement Thursday.

Soldiers came under fire from a convoy of gunmen on Wednesday while patrolling the drug trafficking hotbed. One was killed and another wounded in the battle near the town of San Nicolas del Oro. Troops later seized two .50-caliber Barrett rifles, 17 other rifles, eight grenades, two handguns, ammunition and eight vehicles.

Obama met Thursday in the capital with President Felipe Calderón, who has sent more than 45,000 troops to drug hotspots since taking office in 2006.

Other deaths due to drug violence on the eve of Obama’s visit included three young men whose bodies were stuffed into the trunk of a car abandoned along a highway between Acapulco and Zihuatanejo, another Pacific resort where traffickers have recently been attacking police with grenades and high-powered weapons. The men had been beaten, tortured and strangled, state police said.

In Rosarito, just south of the California border, authorities found the decapitated body of a police officer who had been kidnapped by gunmen the previous day. And in Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, a woman was shot in the head while driving through a residential area.

Elsewhere, a group of masked gunmen killed two men in military uniforms early Thursday in a remote jungle area near Guatemala.

Police in the nearby town of La Trinitaria said the victims were soldiers, but the defense department did not immediately confirm that. Traffickers sometimes wear military uniforms.

In the Pacific port city of Lazaro Cardenas, police found the bullet-riddled body of a man, his head covered with a plastic bag and his feet and hands bound with tape. On Wednesday, three others were found tortured and killed in different parts of Michoacan state, where Lazaro Cardenas is located.

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