MEXICO CITY May 4 Suspected oil thieves killed
at least four soldiers in two separate incidents in the central
Mexican state of Puebla, the army said on Thursday, as
emboldened organized crime moves deeper into the lucrative
A group of soldiers went to investigate a report of an oil
pipeline theft at around 8:15 p.m. (0115 GMT) on Wednesday night
near the village of Palmarito, when they were shot at by a group
using woman and children as human shields, the army said in a
statement late on Wednesday.
The soldiers decided not to return fire, but two of them
died in the attack and one more was wounded.
A few hours later in the same location, armed men in five
sports utility vehicles opened fire on a different group of
soldiers, the army said in a new statement on Thursday.
Two more soldiers died in the ensuing firefight, and nine
were wounded, the army said. Three of the suspected fuel thieves
were killed, while one was wounded, it added. The army said
soldiers arrested 12 people, including two minors.
On Thursday, in the wake of the attacks, locals blocked a
nearby highway with burning tires, television images showed.
Local media reported that the protesters blamed the army for
starting the incidents, and said minors were still missing.
The clash is the latest chapter in a growing problem for the
Mexican government. State-run oil company Pemex says it is
losing a record 27,000 barrels per day of gasoline and diesel as
criminal gangs move deeper into the oil theft business.
(Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Sandra Maler)