Gunmen, Forces Clash After Cartel Leader Killed

(Reuters)

Gunmen and security forces exchanged fire near the U.S.-Mexico border Saturday, one day after a top leader of the Gulf drug cartel was killed, the Mexican state media reported.

Authorities in Reynosa, which is across the border from McAllen, Texas, were telling people to avoid road travel, Notimex reported. It also warned of shootouts between gunman and security forces there.

The trouble came one day after Antonio Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen, known as "Tony Tormenta" or "Tony the Storm," was killed in Matamoros, a city to the east of Reynosa.

Cardenas, 48, was a top leader of one of Mexico's major drug-trafficking operations, and the U.S. State Department had been offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.

Saturday, U.S. President Barack Obama called his counterpart in Mexico to express his support for Felipe Calderon's efforts to "end the impunity of organized criminal groups," the White House said in a statement. Obama also reportedly offered his condolences on the death of the Mexican officials who died during the operation.

Naval troops were met with grenades and assault-weapon fire when they approached Cardenas' hideout in the center of the city around 3:30 p.m. Friday (5:30 p.m. ET), the Mexican navy said.

Four other suspected members of the cartel were also killed in the operation, which ended about 5:30 p.m. (7:30 p.m. ET) the navy said. Three naval officers were killed and four others were injured, authorities said.

"Today was another significant step in the destruction of criminal organizations that have done so much to damage the people of this country," said Alejandro Poire, security spokesman for the Mexican government, soon after Friday's clash.

The Gulf cartel is one of Mexico's major drug-trafficking organizations. It is based in Matamoros, which is across the border from Brownsville, Texas. It is also strong in Reynosa