The mayor of a town in northeast Mexico survived an apparent assassination bid Friday after his bodyguards repelled the attackers in a gunfight that left three gunmen dead and two others detained.

Mayor Jaime Rodriguez escaped injury in the attack in the town of Garcia, a suburb of the northern industrial hub of Monterrey, which has seen a surge in drug cartel-related violence.

Rodriguez said he owes his life to his police bodyguards, who returned fire from his bulletproof SUV and repelled the attack. Two of the attackers, including a woman who was injured in the shootout, fled the scene and were later detained.

"Today, I owe them my life, they saved me," Rodriguez said of the bodyguards, none of whom was injured.

"My heart is going at a thousand revolutions per minute, I feel like running," Rodriguez said. "But I also feel I have to say to the citizens of Garcia and my family that I am well and I am going to carry on."

Rodriguez said he was traveling from Garcia to Monterrey for a meeting when the gunmen opened fire from another sport utility vehicle.

Rodriguez says former police officers were responsible for a previous attack on his town's police, but said he didn't know if they were also responsible for Friday's attempt on his life.

A special squad of armed police in Garcia had come under fire late Thursday night from a group led by three ex-police officers working for organized crime. There were no injuries or arrests.

Rodriguez said he had fired the former police officers after they failed anti-corruption checks.

The governor of the Gulf coast state of Veracruz reported Friday that another mayor in his state is missing since he set off on a trip to neighboring Tamaulipas state on Wednesday.

Veracruz Gov. Javier Duarte said that Saturnino Valdez, mayor of the town of Tampico Alto, had not answered his cell phone or contacted his family since he left for Tamaulipas, a state where drug cartels have been waging bloody turf battles.

At least thee mayors have been slain in Mexico so far in 2011, and more than a dozen were killed in 2010. The country has about 2,440 mayors.

Many of the slayings were allegedly linked to organized crime, but police officers angered by efforts to clean up local forces have also been implicated in some attacks.