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Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Mexico reports crash of drug plane, clash with traffickers

Mexico reports crash of drug plane, clash with traffickers

Associated Press
Jun. 23, 2004 09:35 AM

VILLAHERMOSA, Mexico - A drug-laden plane crashed and traffickers battled police and soldiers southeastern Mexico, local officials said Wednesday.

Jonuta Police Chief Teofilo Cabrales said his office alerted Mexico's army after receiving an anonymous phone call reporting the presence of heavily armed men early Tuesday in the area about 445 miles east of Mexico City.

"We began a chase and a gunbattle occurred," Cabrales said.

As police battled with the armed men, he said, a small plane that had been flying overhead crashed.

"It seems that it was trying to land and crashed against a tree," he said.

Cabrales said that the pilot died in the crash and the plane turned out to be laden with marijuana.

The police chief said that authorities eventually arrested five of the suspected drug traffickers while 15 others managed to flee down a river aboard boats.

In an earlier news conference in Mexico City, federal Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha also referred to the incident.

He said officials had been told of five vehicles carrying people "of a military type" in a zone where a plane either had or was about to land.

He said one of the suspects was injured in the clash and that the pilot of the plane had died. He said the case was under investigation.

Jonuta is at the confluence of the Usumacinta and San Antonio rivers which are sometimes used by traffickers to move drugs toward the Gulf of Mexico.

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