More than a dozen police have been shot dead in an ambush in the western Mexican state of Michoacan, authorities said on Monday, in one of the bloodiest attacks on security forces since President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office in December.
The ministry for public security said on Twitter it would use all means at its disposal to catch those responsible for the attack in the municipality of Aguililla in Michoacan, a state that has long been convulsed by turf wars between drug cartels.
The federal public security ministry said 14 police were killed, though its state counterpart in Michoacan said 13 officers were confirmed dead, and three injured.
The Michoacan security ministry said on Twitter the state police were working near El Aguaje, north of the town of Aguililla, when armed civilians opened fire on them, according to Reuters report.
Authorities have yet to provide further details of the ambush, though photographs purportedly at the crime scene were published on social media showing shot-up and burning police vehicles, as well as the bodies of slain officers.
The images also showed messages attributed to the powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) that were left on vehicles warning police not to support rival drug gangs, including the Knights Templar, an outfit that once dominated the state.
Michoacan has for several years been a stronghold of the CJNG, which in 2015 was blamed for a series of attacks on police in the neighbouring state of Jalisco as it sought to consolidate its control over drug trafficking in the region, Reuters reported.
El Aguaje is a few miles from the state border with Jalisco.
The heavily armed CJNG has used intimidation and bribery to exercise considerable control over local law enforcement. Police salaries are often no match for the gang’s financial muscle, which in large part has been built on trafficking crystal meth.
Fifteen police were killed in a single ambush in Jalisco that year during a six-week stretch of violence that claimed the lives of more than two dozen officers and culminated in the shooting down of an army helicopter on May 1, 2015.
More than 29,000 murders, a record for the country, were registered in Mexico last year, and Lopez Obrador took office pledging to restore peace and order. But he has struggled, and the 2019 murder tally is at risk of topping last year’s total.