ROUGH CUT. NO REPORTER NARRATION.
Friends, family and colleagues mourned on Friday (May 5) four soldiers and six suspected oil thieves who died in a battle in the central Mexican state of Puebla one day earlier.
Emotional funerals were held for the suspected thieves while military honours were given for the fallen soldiers.
The violence came as the army launched a major operation against organised criminals who siphon fuel from pipelines.
Some 600 soldiers were involved in the initial operation, the state government said, with another 400 backed by helicopters and truck-mounted weapons joining them.
The troops were called in to investigate a report of an oil pipeline theft at around 8:15 p.m. local time (0115 GMT) on Wednesday (May 03), near the village of Palmarito, when they were shot at by a group using women and children as human shields, the army said in a statement.
The soldiers decided not to return fire, but two of them died in the attack and another was wounded.
Some locals in the town have blamed the soldiers for the death toll and the violence that ensued.
A few hours later in the same location, armed men in five sport-utility vehicles opened fire on a different group of soldiers, the army said in a statement on Thursday.
Two more soldiers died in the ensuing firefight and nine were wounded, the army said. Six suspected fuel thieves were killed, while one was wounded, it added. The army said soldiers also arrested at least 12 people, including two minors.
President Enrique Pena Nieto has called on government, military and energy officials to coordinate efforts to stamp out petroleum theft.
The clash is the latest chapter in a growing…