A shootout between Mexican soldiers and drug traffickers around the town of Villa Ahumada in the northern state of Chihuahua has left 21 people dead as Mexico slides further into anarchy, reports the Los Angeles Times.
The incident began when drug traffickers kidnapped nine people and subsequently murdered six at a ranch before fleeing in two groups of seven. Mexican soldiers pursued both groups. The resulting shootouts left all 14 drug traffickers dead. The three remaining hostages were recovered alive.
The Times put the incident in perspective:
The scale of bloodletting was remarkable even for Chihuahua, the deadliest spot in Mexico as a year-old turf war has raged in the state between rival drug-trafficking groups.
Chihuahua, across the border from Texas and New Mexico, registered 2,000 drug- related killings last year, according to Mexican news media counts, and has logged more than 200 since Jan. 1.
The troops' presence in the area is due President Felipe Calderon's two-year offensive against drug trafficking organizations, which has spread 45,000 troops across Mexico.
The resulting violence has led many international security analysts, including the U.S. Joint Forces Command, to worry that Mexico is faltering as a state and could fail entirely.