Gunfight in blood-soaked western Mexican state kills at least eight

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - At least eight people died in a shootout between Mexican federal police and suspected gang members in the troubled western state of Jalisco, a government official said on Tuesday. The gunfight took place on Monday in the municipality of Villa Purificacion, where members of the Jalisco New Generation (JNG) cartel shot down an army helicopter on May 1, killing six military personnel on a day of clashes that claimed 15 lives. "At the moment, we've got eight civilians killed," said the federal official, speaking on condition of anonymity. The JNG, a major methamphetamine smuggler, has grown in stature as capos from rival cartels have been arrested and their henchmen pursued by security forces. Mexico's government has now declared the powerful gang public enemy No. 1. The cartel has exposed Jalisco - one of Mexico's most economically important states, and a historic cradle of drug-running - to some of the worst violence in recent years. Over the past two months at least 20 federal and state police killed have been in separate clashes with the gang. Last week, the Jalisco state government ordered that two municipal police forces, including that of Villa Purificacion, should be disarmed, over suspected links to organized crime. Since 2007, more than 100,000 people have died in Mexico due to cartel-related violence. (Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Leslie Adler)