Gunmen attack Mexico Black Hawk, 6 suspects killed

Two Black Hawk helicopters take off in Aquila, Michoacan state on July 24, 2013 (AFP Photo/)

Mexico City (AFP) - Mexican marines killed six suspected criminals after the gunmen shot at their Black Hawk helicopter in the drug violence-plagued northern state of Tamaulipas over the weekend, the navy said Monday.

None of the troops aboard the helicopter was hurt in Sunday's clash, which left the Black Hawk with seven bullet impacts, the navy said in a statement.

The aircraft was on a mission to locate drug cartel suspects when it found carloads of gunmen in a rural area about 70 kilometers (45 miles) south of Nuevo Laredo, a city at the US border.

The suspects shot first, prompting the marines to "fire warning shots in the air to stop the assailants," but the shooting continued in the area near the state of Nuevo Leon.

"The attack was repelled, resulting in the deaths of six people among the group of assailants," the statement said.

The authorities seized four vehicles and six weapons.

The Gulf and Zetas drug cartels have fought each other and the authorities for years in Tamaulipas, a state that has endured brutal turf wars.

It was the third time that a Mexican military helicopter was involved in a gunfight with criminal suspects since May, with the previous two incidents taking place in the western states of Jalisco and Michoacan.

On May 1, suspected members of the Jalisco New Generation drug cartel downed a Cougar helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade, leaving seven soldiers and a policewoman dead.

On May 22, a Black Hawk helicopter was involved in a clash with New Generation members on a Michoacan ranch that left 42 suspects and one police officer dead. Authorities said the aircraft's guns were used to contain the shooters but that it did not fire directly at them.