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Mexico seeks missing soldiers after chopper downed

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Firefighters and members of the state police rush to put out petrol bombs on Gomez Morin Avenue in Guadalajara, Jalisco state, Mexico, on May 1, 2015 (AFP Photo/Hector Guerrero)

Firefighters and members of the state police rush to put out petrol bombs on Gomez Morin Avenue in Guadalajara, Jalisco state, Mexico, on May 1, 2015 (AFP Photo/Hector Guerrero)

Mexican authorities searched for three missing soldiers on Saturday after their helicopter was forced down by gunmen during an anti-drug cartel operation in Jalisco state.

Three other soldiers were killed while 10 troops and two federal police officers were injured on Friday when the assailants shot the Cougar helicopter, forcing the aircraft to make 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.

Soldiers and investigators from the attorney general’s office were searching for the three missing troops in a small area around the helicopter landing site, federal officials told AFP.

There is a lot of vegetation in the area and the soldiers could either be hiding there, or be either unconscious or dead, the officials said.

“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.”

Asked whether authorities believe the cartel could have kidnapped the soldiers, a second official said: “I won’t speculate on that. We maintain the version that they are missing.”

The helicopter came under fire between the towns of Casimiro Castillo and Villa Purificacion.

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 New Generation cartel, led by Nemesio Oseguera, alias “El Mencho,” has violently defied authorities this year, killing 20 police officers in two ambushes in March and April.

Last month, the US Treasury Department slapped financial sanctions on the New Generation as well as its allies, the Los Cuinis cartel.


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