Mexico Seeks Missing Troops after Chopper Downed

TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Mexican authorities searched Saturday for three missing soldiers after gunmen brought down their helicopter in a field during an counternarcotics cartel operation that sparked mayhem in Jalisco state.

Mexico Seeks Missing Troops after Chopper Downed

Three other soldiers were killed while 10 troops and two federal police officers were injured Friday when the assailants hit the Cougar helicopter's tail rotor, forcing an emergency landing.

The attack came on a day of violence across the western state that authorities say was launched by the Jalisco New Generation Drug Cartel in a bid to thwart a military and police operation against the gang.

Jalisco has emerged in recent months as a new challenge in President Enrique Pena Nieto's battle to contain drug violence in Mexico.

The New Generation cartel, led by Nemesio Oseguera, alias "El Mencho," has violently defied authorities, killing 20 police officers in two ambushes in March and April. It has forged alliances with gangs around the globe.

A total of seven people died in Friday's violence, which included roadblocks with torched vehicles in several towns, arson attacks against banks and gasoline stations, and shootouts in four locations.

Authorities detained 19 people.

The violence included the rare attack on the military helicopter between the towns of Casimiro Castillo and Villa Purificacion.

Some 200 soldiers guarded the site of the emergency landing, an area of pastures with thick vegetation near a hill.

A white sport utility vehicle was left behind by the gunmen, with their assault rifles still inside.

Soldiers and investigators from the attorney general's office were searching for the three missing troops in a 100- to 200-meter (yard) area around the helicopter, federal officials told AFP.

The soldiers could either be hiding, unconscious or dead.

"We still don't know what happened to them," one of the officials said on condition of anonymity. "It's a very detailed search to find them."

But officials would not speculate on whether the cartel could have kidnapped the soldiers.

"We maintain the version that they are missing," a second official said.

The flames and shootouts reported in various parts of Jalisco sowed terror in 25 towns on Friday.

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