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Mexico memorializes soldiers killed in drug war

In ceremony for victims, gov’t tries to assure nation it won’t give in to cartels.

Soldiers carry coffins during the funeral of six members of Mexico’s Army in Chilpancingo, Mexico, on Monday.

AP photo

CHILPANCINGO, Mexico — The decapitated bodies of the soldiers lined a major boulevard, accompanied by a sign: “For every one of mine that you kill, I will kill 10.” A bag of their heads, some still gagged with tape, was found nearby.

The discovery in Chilpancingo, an hour north of the resort of Acapulco in southern Mexico, marked the most gruesome attack yet against the Mexican army in its half-century battle against drug gangs.

The government honored the dead Monday in a high-profile ceremony aimed at reassuring the nation that it won’t surrender, despite escalating violence that has killed 5,300 people this year and the betrayal of more than a dozen top law enforcement officials accused of accepting money to protect cartels.

The beheadings also came as Mexico prepares to use $400 million in U.S. aid to fortify its war on traffickers.

President Felipe Calderon said the attack shows that his government’s crackdown is putting pressure on the cartels, and he promised “firm action” in response.

“We are well aware that these cowardly assassins are trying to terrorize the state and society,” Calderon said at a speech in Mexico City. “We will not take one step back in this fight nor will there be any deal or mercy for the country’s clear enemies.”

Calderon didn’t attend the memorial, but his defense and interior secretaries stood before flag-draped coffins at the army base in Chilpancingo.

Regional military commander Gen. Enrique Alonso Garrido said the beheadings were an “offense against Mexican institutions and especially against those who wear a military uniform.”

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