APASEO EL ALTO, Mexico – Seventeen people were killed on Friday in two separate confrontations between gunmen and members of the Mexican security forces.
In the central state of Guanajuato, the scene earlier this week of a massacre of 27 people at a drug rehabilitation center, gunmen opened fire on a police patrol, killing five officers and wounding another.
The contingent of state police were traveling between the towns of Apaseo El Alto and Jerecuaro when they came under attack from gunmen in a red pick-up truck.
“Sadness and mourning in the force. All of our support to the families of the victims,” the state’s public safety secretary, Alvar Cabeza de Vaca, said after learning of the deadly attack.
The incident took place in an area where the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel have been battling to control the trade in fuel stolen from pipelines.
Friday’s assault brought to 56 the number of police officers killed in Guanajuato amid the struggle between the cartels to dominate the fuel-theft racket, which represents a lucrative sideline for outfits that make most of their money from illegal drugs.
Guanajuato led all of Mexico’s 32 states in homicides during the first five months of 2020 with 1,903, 13 percent of the nationwide total.
The killings of the five police and the bloodbath at the drug rehab followed the June 20 arrest in Celaya, Guanajuato, of 26 suspected members of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, whose boss, Jose Antonio Yepez, threatened revenge.
Also Friday, 12 gunmen attached to the Northeast Cartel were killed in a clash with soldiers in the northern border city of Nuevo Laredo, the Mexican army said.
The troops subsequently recovered eight AR-15 assault weapons and two Barrett .50-caliber sniper rifles, according to a statement from the army.
A spokesman for the Tamaulipas state Attorney General’s Office told EFE that the confrontation took place before dawn Friday in the Los Fresnos neighborhood of Nuevo Laredo, just across the Rio Grande from Laredo, Texas.
The dead gunmen were clad in counterfeit marine uniforms, the spokesman said, adding that Northeast Cartel operatives make it a practice to disguise themselves as marines in a bid to confuse police and army troops.
Northeast Cartel enforcers typically use the uniforms and vehicles painted with the marine insignia to carry out kidnappings, the spokesman said.
The cartel is the successor organization to Los Zetas, the notoriously violent criminal enterprise founded by Mexican special forces veterans.