Four police officers were shot and killed after being lured into an ambush in western Mexico, and up to eight suspected attackers were killed in a shootout with other officers who rushed to the site, it was reported Thursday authorities.
Luis Joaquín Méndez, chief prosecutor for the western state of Jalisco, said four municipal police officers from the town of El Salto responded to a call Wednesday night about gunmen inside a house.
Once they arrived, a woman opened the door and told them everything was fine. But gunmen inside then opened fire on the officers, some of whom were dragged into the house and killed, the prosecutor said.
Officials said police reinforcements showed up and engaged in a shootout with the suspects, killing eight people and injuring three.
Later, the prosecutor’s office said nine bodies were found in the house – the four police officers and five suspected gunmen. Three other bodies – two men and a woman – were found at a nearby property, they said.
Prosecutors said the dead were likely members of a gang that apparently held kidnapping victims at one of the properties. Investigators also found the pirated remains of another man in plastic bags.
“At this time when Mexico lives, in Jalisco we are clear that there can be no truce against those who have taken away our peace and tranquility,” Jalisco Governor Enrique Alfaro wrote. on Facebook.
Two people held captive inside the building were rescued following a tip that armed men were seen leading gagged people into the house, officials said.
Several people were arrested and weapons and ammunition were seized.
Ricardo Santillán, El Salto’s police chief, called the shooting “a cowardly act”.
Mexico’s Council of Catholic Bishops issued an open letter on Thursday calling on the government to change course on security, commenting three days afterby a drug gang leader inside their church in a remote town in northern Mexico.
“It is time to revisit failing security policies,” the bishops wrote, calling for a “national dialogue” to find solutions.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said his government was no longer focused on detaining drug cartel leaders and in 2019 ordered the release of a captured Sinaloa cartel leader to avoid bloodshed .
López Obrador implemented a strategy he calls “hugs, not bullets” and at times seemed to tolerate the gangs, at one point even praising them for not interfering in the election.
Asked during his daily morning press briefing if he intended to change his strategy, López Obrador replied: “No, rather the opposite, it’s the right path.”
He has faced questions that there have been more murders in his 3½ years in office than in the six years under President Felipe Calderón in 2006-2012, which López Obrador accuses frequently to be responsible for unnecessary bloodshed.
“It’s just that we received a homicide rate that was at its peak, very high, and Calderón was not handed over to the country like that. He increased it,” López Obrador said.
Ten police officers have been murdered this year in Jalisco, one of Mexico’s most violent states due to the presence of criminal gangs, according to official figures.
The western region, one of the most prosperous in the country, is the cradle of the powerful Jalisco New Generation cartel, which the authorities accuse of numerous deaths and disappearances. The Justice Department considers the Jalisco Cartel “one of the five most dangerous transnational criminal organizations in the world.”
Its leader, Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera, is one of the world’s most wanted drug lords, with the United States Drug Enforcement Administration offering $10 million for his arrest.
“He’s the number one priority of the DEA and frankly of federal law enforcement in the United States,” said DEA Agent Matthew Donahue.in 2019.
Last month, Mexican authorities captured an alleged leader of the Jalisco cartel, Francisco Javier Rodriguez Hernandez, known as “El Señorón” or “XL”.