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4 killed in rioting over Mexican city

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CHIMALHUACAN, Mexico — At least four people were killed and 50 wounded Friday when rival members of Mexico's troubled ruling party clashed in a pitched battle over control of a city near the capital, officials said.

Mexico state Attorney General Gerardo Sanchez told a news conference that three people had been beaten to death and one shot and killed in the rioting in Chimalhuacan, a city of about 1.5 million people 20 miles northeast of Mexico City.

But officials from one of the two warring factions of the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) in the working-class area said the death toll was higher.

In an interview with InfoRed radio news program Jesus Tolentino, the recently elected mayor of Chimalhuacan, who was to have taken office on Friday, said nine of his supporters were dead, and more than 80 had wounds from bullets.

"It's a very serious, lamentable problem," he said.

The scheduled swearing-in ceremony for Tolentino became the flash-point for tensions between his supporters and those of a local rival, PRI political boss Guadalupe Buendia, whose relatives and friends control all levels of the local government.

Members of the PRI's Antorcha Campesina group told reporters they had taken to the streets to support Tolentino as he was sworn in. They said they were fired on by backers of Buendia, known as "la Loba," or "She-Wolf."

Witnesses said her followers opened fire on the Antorcha Campesina followers from positions on the roof of city hall and other nearby buildings.

"La Loba's people were reacting because they had lost power," said one witness who asked not to be named, saying he feared reprisals.

Sanchez said "la Loba" faced criminal charges for illegally dividing up land and selling plots to squatters.

Before the shooting broke out, the two groups had clashed in the streets of Chimalhuacan.

"They used firearms, knives, clubs, stones and homemade bombs," said Santos Montes, deputy attorney general for Amecameca Valley, where Chimalhuacan is located.

The rioters overturned cars and at least one was set on fire. Others parked on the streets were riddled with bullet holes and had their windows shattered.

The PRI has been torn by internal power struggles since it lost the Mexican presidency for the first time in its 71-year history in July 2 elections. Vicente Fox of the conservative National Action Party (PAN) won the presidential vote and is due to take office Dec. 1.

Manuel Cadena, government secretary for Mexico state, told reporters 129 people had been arrested by a force of some 600 riot police sent to the scene. Earlier Cadena told Reuters 204 were arrested.