World

Mexican soldiers killed after gunmen open fire on helicopter

CAMPO, CA - JULY 29:  A helicopter patrols the hills where US Border Patrol agents are carrying out special operations following the first fatal shooting of a US Border Patrol agent in more than a decade on July 29, 2009 near the rural town of Campo, some 60 miles east of San Diego, California. 30-year-old agent Robert Rosas was killed on July 23 when he tracked a suspicious group of people alone in remote brushy hills north of the border in this region. Violence has been escalating in Mexico with fights between well-armed drug cartels and the army becoming common since Mexican President Felipe Calderon began his army-backed war on the cartels. Since the conflict began in late 2006, 12,800 people have been killed. Mexican officials charge that guns which are easily smuggled in from the US have flooded into Mexico where gun laws are strict.   (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

CAMPO, CA - JULY 29: A helicopter patrols the hills where US Border Patrol agents are carrying out special operations following the first fatal shooting of a US Border Patrol agent in more than a decade on July 29, 2009 near the rural town of Campo, some 60 miles east of San Diego, California. 30-year-old agent Robert Rosas was killed on July 23 when he tracked a suspicious group of people alone in remote brushy hills north of the border in this region. Violence has been escalating in Mexico with fights between well-armed drug cartels and the army becoming common since Mexican President Felipe Calderon began his army-backed war on the cartels. Since the conflict began in late 2006, 12,800 people have been killed. Mexican officials charge that guns which are easily smuggled in from the US have flooded into Mexico where gun laws are strict. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)  (2009 Getty Images)

Mexico's defense department said that three soldiers were killed Friday in the western state of Jalisco when gunmen fired on a helicopter.

Twelve others — 10 soldiers and two federal police officers — were also injured and the helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing. Three other soldiers were missing, according to the statement.

President Enrique Peáa Nieto said through his Twitter account that he lamented the soldiers' deaths in the course of their work in Jalisco.

Friday morning started with authorities in Jalisco asking residents to stay at home as they scrambled to extinguish burning vehicles blocking roads in various parts of the state capital Guadalajara and other parts of the state. Fires were also reported in the coastal tourism destination of Puerto Vallarta.

The state prosecutor's office used its Twitter account to ask residents of Guadalajara to remain calm Friday morning as authorities responded to the blockades ignited by a drug cartel. It said authorities were coordinating to extinguish fires and regain calm in other parts of the state's interior.

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Such blockades are a common cartel response to the arrest of important members or are used to foil police and military operations.

The activity came as Mexico celebrated the May 1 holiday and the federal government announced the implementation of "Operation Jalisco" to improve the state's security without providing further details.

The defense department said the helicopter that took fire was participating in Operation Jalisco near Villa Purificación, about 150 miles (250 kilometers) southwest of Guadalajara.

Last month, the Jalisco New Generation cartel killed 15 state police officers in an ambush.

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