Mexico City (AFP) - Mexican authorities have found the bodies of three soldiers who disappeared after a drug cartel brought down a military helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, officials said Monday.
National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said 15 people died in total during a day of violence unleashed Friday by the Jalisco New Generation cartel, up from a previous death toll of seven.
The helicopter attack came on the day of the launch of an operation to dismantle the cartel in the western state of Jalisco. The gang also set fire to dozens of vehicles and banks across the state, while shootouts were reported in four locations.
Eight suspected criminals and a state police officer died in different confrontations separate from the helicopter battle, Rubido told Radio Formula.
Three soldiers were found dead shortly after the Cougar aircraft made an emergency landing at the foot of a hill in the southwestern part of Jalisco. Another 10 soldiers and two federal police officers were hurt.
A search was launched to find three other missing soldiers, but Rubido said Monday they were found dead.
"Unfortunately DNA tests that were conducted after the helicopter burst into flames confirm" the three missing soldiers also died, he said.
It was the first time a cartel had shot down "a helicopter of this size and it's an atypical situation in this country," he added.
Federal police chief Enrique Galindo said authorities believe a leader of the New Generation was in a convoy of gunmen when the helicopter's tail rotor was hit.
"We believe that there was a leader of this criminal group during these events in Casimiro Castillo and for that reason there was a reaction of this size," Galindo told Radio Formula, confirming that the gang had used an RPG-type weapon.
The cartel is led by Nemesio Oseguera, "El Mencho," but Galindo said no leaders were detained during an operation that captured 19 people.
Galindo said Jalisco state has been relatively calm since Friday's mayhem.