Mexican officials vowed Friday to press their war on organized crime despite the brazen killing a day earlier of a top federal police official by a gunman believed to be working for a drug cartel.
"We will not be intimidated," federal Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna said during an official memorial service in Mexico City for Edgar Millan Gomez, who was acting chief of a federal police agency.
President Felipe Calderon, visiting the violence-plagued northern border town of Reynosa later in the day, said organized crime groups were striking back against the federal government "because they know we are hitting their criminal structure."
"We are determined to recover streets that never should have ceased being ours," said Calderon, who had attended the memorial.
Millan Gomez, a veteran officer, oversaw the drive against organized crime before taking over as chief of the Federal Preventive Police last month. He was the highest-ranking Mexican official to be slain since Calderon launched the anti-crime initiative in late 2006.
The attack on Millan Gomez, 41, the third high-ranking federal security official killed in the capital in a week, was the most audacious blow against the government during months of bloodshed.
Authorities believe that Millan Gomez was targeted by drug traffickers as revenge for the arrests of some of their allies, including Alfredo Beltran Leyva, allegedly a top operative of the so-called Sinaloa cartel.
Millan Gomez was shot eight times at close range after four bodyguards accompanied him to his home in Mexico City in the early morning hours Thursday.
Police arrested a 34-year-old convicted auto thief named Alejandro Ramirez, who was found in the home wearing latex gloves and armed with a handgun equipped with a silencer.
Mexican media reported Friday that authorities suspected that Millan Gomez was betrayed by someone who knew his plans and movements.
After being wounded, Millan Gomez was able to question his attacker, according to a report in the daily Reforma newspaper.
"Who sent you? Who sent you to kill me?" he asked, according to the report, citing accounts of two of his bodyguards.
Two bodyguards who went in the house with Millan Gomez were also wounded in the barrage. When the other guards forced their way in, they confronted Ramirez wielding a gun but out of ammunition, the newspaper said.
Mexico has registered more than 3,500 drug-related killings, many victims of violence between rival gangs, since the government offensive against trafficking groups began in December 2006, according to unofficial tallies. The death toll has climbed above 1,000 this year.
Some saw the latest police slayings as evidence that traffickers are feeling the sting of the government crackdown, which has sent more than 25,000 soldiers and federal police agents into the nation's key drug-smuggling corridors.
"We are at war," read the headline on an editorial in the El Universal newspaper.
"The growing number of bloody deeds around the country points to a prolonged and ever-widening conflict that society cannot remain indifferent to," the newspaper said.