More than a dozen Mexican police officers killed in ambush by gunmen

14 October 2019, 22:10

13 Mexican police officers were killed in an ambush by gunmen
13 Mexican police officers were killed in an ambush by gunmen. Picture: Getty
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Three police officers were injured and 13 killed during an ambush by gunmen in the western Mexican state of Michoacan where drug cartel violence has risen in recent months.

State police officers were sent to a home in the town of El Aguaje in Aguililla municipality to enforce a judicial order when they were shot at by "several armed civilians," according to the state security department.

Governor Silvano Aureoles said: "No attack on the police will go unpunished, and this was a cowardly, devious attack because they laid an ambush in this area of the road."

Vehicles were seen burning on the street in images played on Mexican media with messages signed by one of Mexico's most powerful and upcoming cartels, Jalisco New Generation.

Governor Aureoles said they would investigate the validity of the messages.

Federal and state security forces installed checkpoints to find the culprits in the area known as Mexico's "hot lands."

The state of Michoacan has experienced a spike in violence that has reminded people of the country's war on drug cartels from 2006 to 2012, some of the bloodiest days in the nation's history.

In August, police found 19 bodies in the town of Uruapan, including nine hung from a bridge.

Soon after, fierce clashes between members of the Jalisco cartel and regional self-defence groups were witnessed roughly 45 miles north of Aguililla.

Michoacan, a significant exporter of avocados, is also known for growing marijuana and the making of methamphetamine.

It is home to the port of Lazaro Cadenas, which is used as an entry point of precursor chemicals used to make synthetic drugs.

Former President Enrique Pena Nieto tried tackling Mexico's cartel problem
Former President Enrique Pena Nieto tried tackling Mexico's cartel problem. Picture: PA

In 2013, civilian groups in Michoacan armed themselves to fight the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) Cartel, one of whose bases was Aguililla, due to state inaction.

They justified this by saying they needed to defend themselves from kidnappings, extortion and killings by cartels.

However, a number of the vigilante groups were infiltrated by the very gangs they were fighting.

Former Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto's government launched a process to assimilate the groups into official security forces by legalising and disarming them.

Mr Aureoles referred to some of the vigilante groups as criminals and criticised federal authorities for not attacking drug cartels with enough force.