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Hitmen kill Mexican Mayor in drug war state

Mayor Marco Antonio Leal was shot dead by gunmen in SUVs.

Monterrey: Suspected drug hitmen killed the mayor of a small town in northern Mexico on Sunday in a region where two car bombs exploded last week and the bodies of 72 murdered migrant workers were found.

Mayor Marco Antonio Leal was shot dead by gunmen in SUVs as he drove through his rural municipality of Hidalgo near the Gulf of Mexico in Tamaulipas state, the local attorney general`s office said. Leal`s 4-year-old daughter was slightly wounded in the attack, a spokesman said.

It was not immediately clear why Leal, a member of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, was targeted. But Tamaulipas has become one of Mexico`s bloodiest flashpoints since the start of the year as rival hitmen from the Gulf cartel and its former armed wing, the Zetas, fight over smuggling routes into the United States.

Leal spent Sunday morning in a meeting with other Tamaulipas PRI mayors and the governor-elect, also a member of the PRI, which has long been dominant in the state.

Gunmen threw grenades at the town hall earlier this year and Hidalgo`s former mayor, also from the PRI, narrowly survived an assassination attempt this month.

President Felipe Calderon, a conservative from the ruling National Action Party, or PAN, condemned the attack and vowed to continue his fight against drug gangs.

"This cowardly crime and the reprehensible violent events recently in the region strengthen our commitment to continue fighting the criminal groups that seek to terrify families (in Tamaulipas)," Calderon said in a statement.

Drug gangs killed a mayor from Calderon`s party near the wealthy industrial city of Monterrey in neighbouring Nuevo Leon state this month, as attacks on public officials grow.

In a sign of escalating drug war violence, two car bombs exploded in Tamaulipas` state capital, Ciudad Victoria, on Friday, three days after marines found the bodies of 72 migrants gunned down at a ranch in the state.

The blasts, the second and third modest bombs planted in a vehicle this month in Ciudad Victoria and the fourth in Mexico since July, caused no casualties but damaged buildings.

Hitmen threw three grenades in the centre of the manufacturing city of Reynosa, also in Tamaulipas and across from McAllen, Texas on Saturday, injuring 15 people, Reynosa city hall said.

Gunmen murdered a popular candidate for Tamaulipas governor in June in Mexico`s worst political killing in 16 years.

Calderon has blamed the surge in violence in Tamaulipas on the split between the Gulf and Zetas gang but has vowed to crush the cartels.

More than 28,000 people have died in drug violence since Calderon launched his war on drugs in late 2006, prompting fears that bloodshed could undermine tourism and investment as Mexico slowly recovers from its worst recession since 1932.

Bureau Report

London: McLaren`s Lewis Hamilton won a chaotic and thrilling Belgian Grand Prix to seize back the Formula One championship lead from Red Bull`s Mark Webber on Sunday.

Hamilton`s victory, despite a near-miss with the barriers in the challenging conditions ranging from dry to wet, lifted him three points clear of second-placed Webber at the top of the standings with six races remaining.

"It was a great weekend, and very tough racing," said the Briton. "It almost feels like this is my first win. It`s just phenomenal."

The success, his third of the season, contrasted with team mate and reigning world champion Jenson Button`s misfortune on a sweet-and-sour day for the British team and their two world champions.

Button, running behind Hamilton in a McLaren one-two at the fast and flowing circuit, was shunted out of the race by Webber`s young German team mate and title rival Sebastian Vettel on the 17th of the 44 laps.

Vettel was given a drive-through penalty for causing a collision and then plunged further back through the field after tangling with Force India`s Vitantonio Liuzzi and puncturing his own left rear tyre.

The German ended up 15th and out of the points for the third time this year.

Webber, winner of four of the 13 races so far this season, had been on pole position but suffered a terrible start on a day where the fickle Spa weather played its hand to full effect and the safety car was twice deployed.

"Lewis deserved the win, he did a good job," the Australian said.

Poland`s Robert Kubica finished third for Renault, losing second with a pit-stop error but still taking a morale-boosting result for a team who this time last year became embroiled in a major race-fixing scandal that led to a suspended permanent ban.

Hamilton has 182 points to Webber`s 179 and Vettel`s 151. Button is on 147.

Red Bull stay ahead of McLaren in the constructors` standings by a single point.

Massive Blow

"I don`t know what Sebastian was doing," said Button of an incident that team boss Martin Whitmarsh said was more reminiscent of a junior series.

"I`d rather he did it with his team mate than with us," added Whitmarsh, referring to a Turkish Grand Prix collision between the two Red Bulls in May that gifted McLaren a one-two finish.

Ferrari`s Fernando Alonso, fifth in the standings, retired after an incident-filled afternoon on which he collided with Brazilian Rubens Barrichello on the opening lap and dropped to 20th place.

The debris from that incident, apart from ending Barrichello`s 300th race without the Williams veteran completing a lap, brought out the safety car.

The Spaniard pitted for a new front wing and fought his way back to eighth but finally crashed out six laps from the end when he spun and hit the barriers between Les Combes and Rivage.

The Ferrari was stranded on the track, again bringing out the safety car.

"It is very disappointing...but it does not mean that I have given up on my chances of winning the title," said Alonso, now 41 points off the lead.

Brazilian Felipe Massa finished fourth for Ferrari, ahead of Germany`s Adrian Sutil in a Force India.

Seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher, who had started in 21st place after a 10-place penalty for an incident with Barrichello at the previous race in Hungary, finished seventh at his favourite circuit.

The 41-year-old former Ferrari ace tangled twice with Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg, their cars touching once, before the younger German grabbed sixth place.

Japan`s Kamui Kobayashi was eighth for Sauber, with Russian Vitaly Petrov handing Renault a double points finish and Liuzzi scoring after Toro Rosso`s Spaniard Jaime Alguersuari was given a retrospective 20-second penalty.

Bureau Report

From Zee News

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