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June 23, 2017

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Mexican soldiers seize huge cartel weapons cache

MEXICO CITY -- Mexican soldiers found a buried cache of weapons apparently stockpiled by a drug cartel, including 154 rifles and shotguns and more than 92,000 rounds of ammunition, the Defense Department said Friday.

The cache included four mortar shells, two rocket-propelled grenades, dozens of assault rifles, sniper rifles and two bows.

It was found in an underground chamber at a ranch near the industrial city of Monclova in the northern state of Coahuila earlier this week and included more than 4,600 rifle magazines, army Gen. Edgar Luis Villegas said. He did not specify what day.

Villegas said the weapons apparently belonged to the Zetas cartel, which has been fighting the Sinaloa cartel and other drug gangs for control of the border state.

The seizure suggests that despite efforts to crack down on weapons trafficking in Mexico, drug cartels are still able to obtain enough weapons to keep stockpiles in reserve.

It was not the first such mass seizure in recent months. In May, soldiers seized 83 assault rifles and shotguns, five grenade launchers and more than 18,000 bullets as well as hand grenades and 18 pistols following a confrontation with a 17-vehicle convoy of suspected cartel gunmen in the northern border state of Tamaulipas.

The Mexican navy said 34 tons (31 metric tons) of monomethylamine arrived May 6 and the other ship carrying 35 tons (32 metric tons) of ethyl phenyl acetate arrived April 10.

Mexico has banned imports of several chemicals to thwart methamphetamine production. The U.S. government says Mexican traffickers are the main suppliers of synthetic drugs to the United States.

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