MEXICO CITY – An attack on a police convoy in the western Mexico state of Jalisco killed 15 state police officers and wounded five, marking the deadliest single attack on police in Mexico in recent memory.
The Monday ambush in a rural area of Jalisco left police vehicles burned and riddled with bullet holes. It was the largest death toll in a single attack on law enforcement since 12 federal police officers were killed in the neighboring state of Michoacan in 2010.
The Jalisco state prosecutors’ office said several officers had been hit in the shootout late Monday in a rural area as the police convoy traveled between the Pacific coast resort of Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara, the state capital.
On March 19, gunmen in Jalisco ambushed a federal police convoy, killing five officers. On March 30, gunmen ambushed and tried to kill the state security commissioner.
Jalisco is home to a drug cartel known as Jalisco New Generation, which experts say is now among Mexico’s most powerful. Prosecutors would not say whether that gang was involved in the attack.
But they did say last month’s ambush on the security commissioner’s convoy — in which he escaped unharmed — was in retaliation for the March 23 killing of gang boss Heriberto Acevedo Cardenas, who was known as “El Gringo.”
Jalisco state prosecutor Luis Carlos Najera had previously identified Acevedo Cardenas as the mastermind behind a May 2014 ambush of Mexican army troops in another part of Jalisco state that killed four soldiers and injured two.
Authorities said at the time that attack was carried out by the Jalisco New Generation cartel in reprisal for the army’s seizure of stolen gasoline.
Such large-scale ambushes of state-level security officials and Mexican army patrols are relatively rare in Mexico outside the border state of Tamaulipas. The Jalisco attacks suggest the conflict there is reaching a new level. The cartel has been violent since it was founded in 2010 following the death of Jalisco-based Sinaloa cartel leader Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel.
In November 2013, Jalisco state authorities linked Jalisco New Generation to dozens of bodies discovered in mass graves in the community of La Barca near Lake Chapala, which is popular with Canadian and U.S. expatriates and tourists.
Officials believe the New Generation cartel was behind the dumping of 35 bodies on a busy street In the Gulf coast city of Veracruz in 2011, during a turf battle with the Zetas drug gang.