21 killed in series of shootouts in Mexico

Mexican authorities say at least 21 people have been killed in three shootouts between soldiers and gunmen and a fight between rival drug gangs.

At least 15 deaths occurred in three gunbattles in the western state of Michoacan yesterday, said the spokesman for state prosecutors, Jonathan Arredondo. He said 10 gunmen were killed in a shootout with an army patrol that was attacked in the township of Patzcuaro, an area of Michoacan popular with tourists.

Five other people died in two smaller confrontations in Michoacan, and one federal police officer was wounded. Michoacan is the state where President Felipe Calderon launched his armed offensive against organised crime in 2006.

The state holds gubernatorial elections November 13. Much of the state's violence has been attributed to a pseudo-religious drug cartel known as La Familia and more recently to an offshoot gang, The Knights Templar. In the northern state of Sinaloa, six people were killed on Friday during a shootout between two groups of armed men on a highway in the town of Guamuchil, assistant state prosecutor Martin Robles said.

All six dead were taken to a funeral home, and gunmen later burst into the facility and carried away three bodies. The other three victims were apparently passers-by caught in the crossfire, Robles said. Sinaloa is considered the home of the drug cartel of the same name.

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