A suspected member of a criminal gang dedicated to fuel theft died after a firefight with federal police in the state of Veracruz, police said.

A report of the federal police’s regional security division on Saturday said that the fight broke out when armed gang members sought to rescue two of their members, who had been arrested while transporting stolen fuel in a truck.

The police had arrested both men and secured the vehicle on Saturday morning, between the towns of Sayula de Aleman and Acayucan, in the south of Veracruz, Xinhua news agency reported.

As the officers were taking the detainees, a group of their accomplices opened fire. The police returned fire and killed one of the gang members who was inside a vehicle. Police reinforcements soon arrived, forcing the criminals to flee.

Fuel theft in the states of Veracruz and Puebla has become a hot topic in Mexico, especially since four soldiers and six suspected gang members were killed in shootouts on May 3.

Mexican authorities have stated that the gangs used women and children as human shields to attack the soldiers. This violence led Mexico to deploy around 2,000 soldiers to the area this week.