At least 15 police officers were killed in an ambush by presumed drug traffickers in one of Mexico's largest and most important states, officials reported Tuesday.
The prosecutor's office in Jalisco state confirmed the deadly attack, which it said took place Monday afternoon as a police convoy traveled to Guadalajara, the state capital.
An additional five officers were injured, prosecutors said. It was not clear if there were casualties among the attackers.
This is one of the highest death tolls of government security forces in recent years, and it is the second ambush of police in Jalisco, in west-central Mexico, in less than three weeks. On March 19, five members of an elite force known as the gendarmerie were gunned down while on patrol.
Alejandro Solorio, Jalisco public security commissioner, said in a news conference that the convoy was blocked on its route by a burning vehicle, apparently planted by the assailants. Trapped, the police then came under heavy gunfire.
"This was a cowardly attack," said Solorio, who himself survived an assassination attempt a week ago.
The state has struggled under the thumb recently of a relatively new criminal organization called the Jalisco New Generation. The group was originally formed in alliance with the powerful Sinaloa cartel to fight what was then that organization's main rival, the Zetas paramilitary force.
New Generation is believed responsible for numerous gruesome mass slayings, including one in which 35 corpses showing signs of torture were dumped in a crowded intersection in the Zeta-dominated city of Veracruz in 2011.
The group was also linked to several mass graves found two years later in the Jalisco lake region of Chapala, popular with American and Canadian retirees and snowbirds.
More recently, New Generation has sought to carve out its own territory, taking advantage of recent arrests of top leaders of the Sinaloa, Zetas and other cartels. Much of the violence in Jalisco now may be tied to the group's efforts to displace Sinaloa, as well as confrontations with a growing presence of state security forces.
While not unheard of, it is unusual for drug cartels to confront security forces head on. Solorio said part of the motivation comes from a March 23 gun battle in which police killed New Generation boss Heriberto Acevedo Cardenas, alias El Gringo.