Soldiers killed 22 people during a shootout at a warehouse in central Mexico state on Monday, the Defense Department said. The incident comes as more of the country's security forces are being deployed to the region as part of Mexico's highly militarized war on drugs.
The department said in a brief statement that soldiers were patrolling the town of Tlataya when they came across a warehouse being guarded by armed men, who opened fire on the troops. One soldier was injured in the gunfire.
A shootout ensued, and 21 men and one woman were killed. The soldiers rescued three women who said they had been kidnapped. Soldiers seized 22 automatic rifles, two shotguns, 13 handguns, a hand grenade and dozens of rounds of ammunition.
Authorities didn't say if the dead were members of an organized crime group. Local newspaper Reforma quoted anonymous sources in the military as saying the men were members of the criminal organization La Familia.
The town of Tlataya is in the mountains near the state of Guerrero, an area known for growing marijuana. Mexico state, which surrounds Mexico City, has in recent months seen an increase in killings linked to drug cartels.
Since the end of March, the federal government doubled the presence of police and military in the state and has been carrying out coordinated operations there, CNN Mexico reported.
Over 80,000 people have been killed in Mexico's drug wars since 2006, when the government militarized its response, according to news website Periodico Correo. Mexico state, the most populous state in the country, with over 15 million residents, is ranked first in extortion complaints for 2013 and fourth in kidnappings.
Al Jazeera and wire services