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Heavily armed attackers stole 20 freight containers, oaded with partly refined gold and silver ore and television sets, from a port in western Mexico in a heist of "unprecedented" proportions, authorities said. The burglary, described by local media as "the theft of the century," took place on June 5 in a private compound of a commercial port in the city of Manzanillo on Mexico's Pacific coast.

After incapacitating the port's security teams, the assailants used cranes and trucks to move the containers, said state security spokesman Gustavo Adrian Joya.

"This is unprecedented. We had seen sporadic thefts of containers before, but not in such a quantity," he said, adding that the heist took eight to 10 hours.

"They were very selective in the type of goods they stole: precious metals and other things, like air conditioning units," the spokesman told reporters.

National customs head Horacio Duarte Olivares said the area where the burglary occurred was not under the jurisdiction of the Navy, which is in charge of port surveillance.

The Public Prosecutor's Office said it was opening an investigation, but did not give details of the quantities of gold and silver stolen.

José Medina Mora, president of the Mexican Employers Federation, said the large-scale robbery was a sign of rising crime in Mexico.

“There is a growing lack of safety, and this is a sign of what is happening in the country and it requieres that authorities take action," Medina Mora said.

According to local press reports, about 10 armed thieves forced their way into a private freight dispatch yard near the port, subdued employees and then took several hours to search for the shipping containers they wanted.

Freight theft is a serious problem in Mexico, but it usually involves thieves hijacking one truck at a time on highways — not driving off with 20 freight containers.

Articles like television sets are usually quickly sold off in the country's extensive black markets, but it was unclear where thieves could sell tons of partly processed gold or silver ore. Any refiner would be likely to ask questions about where it came from.

Prosecutors and police in Colima have had a more pressing problem on their hands, with residents blocking roads to protest kidnapping and killing of local people. Two police officers have also been shot to death so far this month in the state, which has been dominated by the Jalisco drug cartel.

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