12 slain in Mexico identified as federal officers

High-ranking drug cartel member Arnoldo Rueda Medina was arrested Saturday, triggering an ambush on police.
Twelve bodies with signs of torture found on the side of a remote highway in the state of Michoacan were federal police officers, an official with Mexico’s national security council said at a news conference Tuesday.

The officers, 11 men and one woman, were “ambushed while they were off duty by an armed group,” said the security council’s Technical Secretary Monte Alejandro Rubido Garcia. The bodies were found in a pile near the town of La Huacana in the southwest Mexican state, Garcia said. Rubido said the slain officers had been doing “investigative work” in the city of Arteaga in Michoacan, one of the states most affected by the government’s offensive against drug cartels. Rubido announced the arrest of Francisco Javier Frias Lara, known as “El Chivo,” in connection with the killings of the officers. Frias is a member of La Familia Michoacana, one of the region’s most powerful drug cartels, Rubido said. Federal police around the country will redouble security measures for its agents, Rubido said. The slayings come on the heels of an unprecedented wave of violence washing over Mexico. Since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the drug cartels shortly after coming into office in December 2006, more than 10,000 people have died, about 1,000 of them police. In the city of Ciudad Juarez alone, the toll of drug-related deaths for the year topped 1,000, a distinction the Mexican city did not reach last year until September. At this point last year, the violence-plagued city across the border from El Paso, Texas, had tallied 596 killings, El Universal newspaper said Tuesday, citing figures from the Chihuahua state attorney general’s office. The city did not reach 1,000 slayings in 2008 until September 16.

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Between 1994 and 2006, the death toll never exceeded 300. According to the state attorney general’s office, Juarez’s death toll this year is: 136 in January, 240 in February, 73 in March, 90 in April, 125 in May, 247 in June and 104 so far in July. The past few days have been particularly bloody in southwest Mexico. At least 32 people have been killed in Michoacan drug violence in recent days, El Cambio de Michoacan newspaper reported Tuesday. Two federal police officers were killed in an ambush early Tuesday in Michoacan. Coordinated attacks in eight cities over the weekend in the state had left three federal police officers and two soldiers dead. Those attacks were prompted by the arrest early Saturday of Arnoldo Rueda Medina, a high-ranking Familia Michoacan member. Cartel members first attacked the federal police station in Morelia to try to gain freedom for Rueda. When that failed, the drug gangs attacked police installations. Four police were wounded in Tuesday’s ambush, the state-run Notimex news agency reported. A federal police station in the Michoacan city of Maravatio was attacked Tuesday morning, news reports said. There were no immediate reports of casualties. The bodies of the 12 federal officers had been found hours earlier. Another attack occurred late Monday in the Michoacan city of Lazaro Cardenas, where gunmen launched three grenades and fired high-caliber weapons at the Sol del PacĂ­fico Hotel. The hotel serves as headquarters for federal police participating in the Operativo Michoacan drug sweep. A corporal was wounded but no guests were injured, El Universal said. Nine bodies were found last week on the same road where the corpses were discovered Monday, the newspaper said, and four bodies showing signs of torture were dumped there last month. In Chihuahua state along the U.S. border, a municipal president was shot and killed Tuesday morning while on his way to work. Ariel Meixequeiro had twice before temporarily left his post because he had been threatened by crime gangs, El Universal said. Other local officials also have been killed or abducted. Violence also broke out Monday in Veracruz, on the Gulf of Mexico. A confrontation in the city’s tourist district left two drug cartel suspects dead and another wounded, the federal Secretariat for National Security reported. Three police and a taxi driver were wounded. The drug suspects died when a grenade they were about to throw at police blew up inside their armor-plated vehicle. A 10-minute shootout started when police tried to stop the BMW in which the men were riding. At least 10 vehicles, several businesses and the Cristo del Buen Viaje Catholic church suffered damage, El Universal reported. In Sinaloa state, also on Mexico’s Pacific coast, three men were shot and killed in two cities Monday, the newspaper said. In the city of Culiacan, the killers ran over two of the men with a truck after shooting them. The third man was shot in El Dorado while he was riding a bike.