Mexico drug violence: Sinaloa shootout leaves 12 dead

Mexican soldier on truck with machine gun in Puebla, with Popocatepetl volcano in the background The Mexican army has a leading role in the fight against drug cartels

A gunfight between the Mexican army and suspected drug gang members has left at least 12 people, including two soldiers, dead, officials say.

The clash happened in Guasave in the north-western state of Sinaloa.

Gunmen using grenades and automatic weapons ambushed an army patrol before retreating to a hotel as police and military reinforcements closed in.

Sinaloa is one of the Mexican states worst affected by drug-related violence.

Schools and businesses in the area remained closed after the fighting broke out on Wednesday morning.

Security forces seized vehicles and weapons, including a high-powered rifle capable of penetrating armoured vehicles, Sinaloa state prosecutors said.

"An operation is under way to ensure that calm and security return to the Guasave area," state governor Mario Lopez Valdez said.

He rejected suggestions that the authorities were losing control of security in Sinaloa, Efe news agency reported.

The state on the Pacific coast is home to the powerful Sinaloa cartel, led by Mexico's most-wanted drug trafficker, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

But the cartel's control of smuggling routes into the US is challenged by rival criminal gangs.

At least 20 people were reported in clashes between troops and gang members in other parts of the state last weekend.

Around 50,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since 2006, when President Felipe Calderon began deploying troops to fight the cartels.

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