Armed attacks on Mexican federal police Monday in violent Michoacan state sparked shootouts that killed at least 10 officers and an unknown number of gunmen, authorities said.
The twin ambushes in the city of Zitacuaro underscored anew the brazenness with which criminal groups have taken on Mexican security forces.
The federal public safety department said officers had finished patrol and were headed to Mexico City when they came under attack. The officers returned fire, killing some gunmen and wounding several. Authorities said surviving assailants escaped with the dead and injured, a tactic often used by drug gang hit men.
At least 15 officers were reported wounded. News reports said attackers parked vehicles across a road to enclose the police.
Michoacan, a rugged western state famous as a winter haven for migrating monarch butterflies, is home base of the La Familia drug-trafficking group and a crucial front in President Felipe Calderon’s 3 1/2-year-old offensive against organized crime.
Michoacan is Calderon’s home state and was the first place he sent federal troops after announcing the crackdown when he took office in December 2006.
Monday’s attacks came as Calderon sought to explain his crime strategy to a public that has watched the drug war death toll soar to 23,000 since 2006. Most of the killings stem from feuding between traffickers.
In a message spanning two full pages in Monday’s newspapers, Calderon blamed gang rivalries for the violence and defended the crackdown as needed to save Mexico from crime syndicates.
“If we do nothing, we will end up in the hands of organized crime, we’ll live in constant fear, our children won’t have a future, there will be more violence and we will lose our freedom,” Calderon said.
Also on Monday, authorities in Sinaloa state said a prison disturbance left 25 inmates dead in the resort city of Mazatlan: 20 of them died of gunshot wounds and the rest were stabbed.
The killings bore the markings of an organized-crime hit. The victims were being held on federal charges, such as drug trafficking and murder, and were to be transferred to federal prison.
Officials said they recovered four firearms.