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Thieves steal five small planes
MEXICO CITY |
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Armed men stole five small planes from a private airstrip in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa on Tuesday by overpowering a police officer and flying away, security forces said.
The group of around 20 men stormed the small airstrip at dawn, seized the officer's gun, tied him up, filled the planes with fuel and flew off, said Emma Quiroz, spokeswoman for the government's anti-organized crime operations in Sinaloa.
It was not clear if there was a link to drug gangs who use small aircraft to spirit cocaine through northern Mexico toward the United States. Quiroz's office said it was investigating whether any authorities had been complicit in the theft.
The office said in a statement that it was "taking the necessary actions to determine the whereabouts of these airplanes and the criminals who took part in the robbery."
The five planes were taken from a hangar at an unpaved airstrip belonging to a fumigation company in the town of Navolato. They had been taken out of service earlier this year by the army on the grounds they presented irregularities that violated civil aviation and airport laws.
The army, which is battling drug cartels up and down Mexico and especially in northern states with smuggling routes north, has confiscated 245 small planes and helicopters since November 2007, Mexican media reported.
Sinaloa is one of the most violent states in a nearly two-year-old war between rival drug gangs and security forces which has killed some 3,000 people so far this year.
Small planes are used legitimately in the state to spray farm crops with pesticides and to eradicate marijuana fields with chemicals from the air.
(Reporting by Miguel Angel Gutierrez; editing by Mohammad Zargham)
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