Mexico marines kill eight suspected gangsters in Mexico City

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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - At least eight suspected gang members died on Thursday in a gun battle with Mexican marines in Mexico City, which has largely been spared the worst of the country’s drug violence.

Mexico’s Navy said in statement that a patrol of marines in Tlahuac, in the southeastern part of the capital, was attacked by suspected gang members, sparking the gunfight. The Navy said that among the dead was Felipe de Jesus Luna, whom it described as the head of a violent criminal organization.

The Navy said the gangsters were suspected of drug dealing, extortion, murder and kidnapping. It did not say if any of the marines were injured.

Maries were in the area to follow up on intelligence about the whereabouts of local criminal gangs, the Navy said in the statement.

The exchange was one of the most violent clashes between security forces and gangs since 17 suspected gangsters were killed in northwestern Mexico at the end of June.

Since 2007 when former President Felipe Calderon launched his assault on drug cartels, Mexico City has largely avoided the violence that has plagued much of the country and resulted in more than 100,000 deaths.

But violence has been rising in Mexico City, according to Interior Ministry data. In the first five months of 2017, there were 438 murders in the capital, up nearly 20 percent from the same period last year.

Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter and Lizbeth Diaz