At least 14 reported dead in gunbattle between Mexican gangs

MEXICO CITY — A series of raging gunbattles between two drug gangs left at least 14 people dead Wednesday in the mountains of the northern Mexico state of Chihuahua.

Authorities said the number of dead could rise. Initial reports from the relatively isolated region had put the death toll as high as 26 but officials said later that only 14 bodies had been recovered.

Oscar Alberto Aparicio, the Chihuahua state security commissioner, said security forces came under fire when they arrived at the scene of the clash in Las Varas, a town about 185 miles (300 kilometres) northwest of the state capital.

Soldiers and police “were met with gunfire, but they managed to beat back the attack and only one patrol vehicle was hit by gunfire,” Aparicio said.

Aparicio said gunfights were continuing as police and soldiers chased gang members through the mountains. Authorities called in a Black Hawk helicopter to help in the search in the area, which is in a region known for marijuana and opium poppy production.

Felix Gonzalez, a spokesman for Chihuahua state prosecutors, told local media the initial confrontation pitted members the La Linea gang, based in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, against a faction of the Sinaloa cartel.

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