Gang shootout kills 14 in Veracruz, Mexico

A police officer in Xalapa The gunfight in the suburbs of Xalapa lasted for more than six hours

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A shootout between Mexican security forces and suspected gang members has left 14 people dead.

Some 100 soldiers, marines and police in Xalapa, in the eastern state of Veracruz, had surrounded a house that, it was thought, was being used as a safe house by a gang, officials say.

The occupants opened fire and a six-hour gun battle followed.

Police say Xalapa had so far been spared the gang violence which has afflicted some other Mexican cities.

The town registered 12 murders between 2007 and 2010, officials say. Thursday night's shootout more than doubles that figure.

'Heavily armed'

Gen Carlos Aguilar Perez, the commander of the region, said his men had gone to the house after receiving a tip-off from local residents about the presence of armed men there.

The general said his men were shot at and had to return fire to defend themselves. Twelve suspected gang members and 2 soldiers were killed in the shooting.

The security forces found five long-range and three short-range weapons, as well as grenades, bullet-proof vests and ammunition inside the house, said the general.

According to Mexican government figures, more than 34,000 people have died in drug-related violence over the past four years.

But officials say more than half of the murders occurred in three northern states, with some regions of Mexico almost untouched by the violence.

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