43 Dead in Gunfight With Growing Mexico Cartel All but one of the fatalities are suspected gang members By Newser Editors and Wire Services Posted May 23, 2015 8:51 AM CDT 27 comments Comments Vehicles burn near Ecuanduero, in western Mexico, Friday. (Oscar Pantoja Segundo) (Newser) – The latest in a series of clashes between Mexican authorities and a powerful, fast-growing drug cartel turned into the deadliest confrontation in recent memory, with 42 suspected gang gunmen and one Federal Police officer killed during a three-hour firefight at a remote western ranch. The battle yesterday followed two other recent unprecedented attacks by the cartel, one that killed 15 state police officers and another that shot down an army helicopter with a rocket launcher for the first time in Mexico's history. The death toll from all three is at least 76 people at a time when the Mexican government claims crime is falling dramatically and the interior minister recently insisted the country "is not in flames." Black smoke billowing upward from vehicles set on fire during yesterday's fighting in the municipality of Tanhauto on the border between Jalisco and Michoacan states could be seen for miles. The suspects were members of "a criminal organization whose main operating zone is Jalisco state," said National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido. He did not specifically mention the Jalisco New Generation cartel, but the drug gang dominates the area where the battle erupted and has grown rapidly in recent years to become one of Mexico's biggest organized crime groups.