A Mexican flag is seen over the city of Tijuana, Mexico from San Ysidro, California

Mexico City — Shootings involving suspected fuel thieves have left nine people dead in central Mexico.

Prosecutors say the violence began late Monday when a gang of gunmen went looking for another thief to extort money from him in the state of Puebla, east of Mexico City.

They killed three people on the spot and kidnapped five others, whose burned bodies were found elsewhere.

A local police official was also killed.

The gang had been involved in extortion, robbery and siphoning fuel out of state-run pipelines.

Associated Press