MORELIA, Mexico – Federal agents Sunday captured two suspects in connection with a series of attacks on federal forces across western Michoacan state that left five officers and two soldiers dead.
The men were arrested following a shootout with federal police in the Pacific port city of Lazaro Cardenas early Sunday in which one gunman was killed, Mexico's federal Public Safety Department said in a statement. Police also seized three assault rifles, a pistol, bullets, bulletproof vest, four radios and an SUV.
Police accuse the suspects of being involved in a series of brazen attacks on federal police stations Saturday in Michoacan and two other states.
Authorities say the attacks — one of the boldest offenses carried out against the government — were in response to the arrest of Arnoldo Rueda Medina, a reputed main operative of La Familia cartel. Rueda was arrested shortly before 5 a.m. Saturday in the Michoacan capital, Morelia.
Assailants repeatedly ambushed federal forces throughout the day, opening fire on police patrols and stations in seven cities in Michoacan, two cities in the central state of Guanajuato and one city in the Pacific coast state of Guerrero, the department said. All together, assailants killed five federal agents and two soldiers.
The violence continued Sunday with gunmen opening fire on a Lazaro Cardenas hotel frequented by federal agents, but no one was injured. In the mountain town of Nueva Italia, the bound bodies of three men who had been shot in the head were found, according to a report from the Michoacan state attorney general's office.
Rueda and the two suspects arrested Sunday will be taken to Mexico City, where they will be presented to the federal prosecuting office in charge of organized crime, the department said.
Michoacan, President Felipe Calderon's home state, has been at the center of his drug war. Calderon has sent more than 45,000 troops to drug hotspots in the state and throughout Mexico since he took office in 2006. He also has arrested Michoacan politicians for allegedly protecting cartels.
Cartels have responded with a vengeance, killing soldiers and police and carrying out attacks against rival smugglers. More than 11,000 people have been killed by drug violence nationwide since 2006.
Also Sunday, in Ciudad Juarez, a police officer was fatally shot after leaving the station shortly after midnight Sunday, according to the city police department. So far this year, 38 city, state and federal officers have been killed in Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas.