MEXICO CITY — Two members of the Mexican navy, including a vice admiral, were shot dead Sunday in the troubled southwestern state of Michoacan, officials said.
Michoacan, long a hotbed of drug cartel violence, has become particularly unstable in recent months. Fed up with the extortion, threats and killings carried out by a cartel called the Knights Templar, residents of small towns formed vigilante “self-defense” groups. Clashes and killings escalated, disrupting important agricultural harvests and other businesses. In May, President Enrique Peña Nieto sent in military units in an effort to restore control.
In an apparent response to the government crackdown, groups of armed criminals last week carried out a number of ambushes on federal forces across Michoacan, killing at least four federal police officers and wounding a number of others. Federal officials said at least 20 criminals were killed in firefights.
According to a statement issued Sunday by the Mexican navy, Vice Admiral Carlos Miguel Salazar Ramonet and other members of the navy were traveling in the northwestern part of the state on a rural road when a group opened fire on their vehicle.
Salazar was the commander of the Eighth Naval Zone, with headquarters in Puerto Vallarta, in the neighboring state of Jalisco. The second person killed was not identified by the navy, but Mexican news reports said it was one of Salazar’s bodyguards.
The news website Milenio reported Sunday night that three suspects had been taken into custody.
The Mexican navy is considered the most effective, reliable and least corruptible of the country’s security agencies. It has played a key role in Mexico’s effort to confront its powerful drug cartels.