Car explodes in northern Mexico as soldiers pass
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Drug violence escalated Thursday in two Mexican regions when a vehicle exploded during a car chase in the northern city of Monterrey and later eight bodies were dumped in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz.
No one was injured when the car, pursued by a military convoy, exploded, authorities said.
Police in Nuevo Leon state, where Monterrey is located, are trying to determine if the car was loaded with explosives or if assailants threw grenades at it, said a military official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
Photographs of the scene showed an almost-disintegrated small car and the damaged metal door of an auto repair shop. The explosion caused no other reported damage.
The troops were on a routine patrol in Monterrey when they spotted a suspicious car carrying several men and gave chase.
Drug traffickers first used explosives against authorities in July 2010, when a car bomb aimed at federal police officers exploded in Ciudad Juarez, killing three and wounding nine. The following months, three other car bombs were detonated in Ciudad Victoria, capital of the border state of Tamaulipas.
In Veracruz, hours later a person called police reporting bodies found in the town of Paso de Ovejas. Authorities arrived at a local cemetery late Thursday and found six bodies. Two others were located near a ranch, said a statement by the Veracruz Attorney General's Office.
The Mexican army and navy beefed up security in the area.
The industrial city of Monterrey has seen a spike in drug violence since early 2010, when the Gulf drug cartel and the Zetas began a fierce fight for control of the city and its metropolitan area.
In Veracruz, authorities said violence is caused by the rivalry between a gang aligned with the Sinaloa drug cartel and the Zetas, which has increased its presence in the state.
Also Thursday, a federal judge sentenced four military officers to more than 29 years in prison for giving drug traffickers information on police operations, the Attorney General's Office said in a statement.
The four soldiers, three lieutenants and a captain were arrested in June 2009 as part of a widespread corruption probe known as "Operation Clean House."
The officers were linked to drug lords Ismael Zambada and the Beltran Leyva brothers, the statement said.
They were giving them "information that allowed them to evade justice and operate with impunity."
The military officers are Capt. Jose Manuel Reyes, and Lts. Ricardo Santos Vazquez, Jaime Guatemala Nino and Francisco Jimenez Garcia. Each received a sentence of 29 years, four months and 15 days in prison, federal prosecutors said.
They also have to pay fines ranging from $13,600 to $122,000.
Federal prosecutors didn't say where the officers were working while allegedly collaborating with drug traffickers or how long they allegedly passed information to them.
Zambada is one of the leaders of the Sinaloa drug cartel, Mexico's most powerful. The Beltran Leyva brothers were once part of the same cartel but they split after the 2008 arrest of Alfredo Beltran Leyva.
Navy sailors and customs agents also found 24 metric tons of precursor chemicals in two containers when inspecting a ship in the Pacific seaport of Manzanillo coming from Busan, South Korea. The containers were from Shanghai, said a Thursday statement by the Mexican navy.
Mexican authorities have made major busts of large labs with such chemicals and meth this year, signaling an expansion of methamphetamine production possibly by the Sinaloa drug cartel, the country's most powerful.
Mexico is the primary source of meth to the United States and most of Mexico's precursor chemicals come from Asia.