World News

Ten Mexican police killed in ambush by drug hitmen

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Ten Mexican federal police officers were killed on Monday when suspected drug cartel hitmen ambushed their convoy in the western Mexican state of Michoacan, security officials said.

Gunmen used a heavy truck to block the highway the police were traveling on and opened fire on the convoy.

“The information we have is that there are 10 dead and several wounded,” Michoacan state Public Security Minister Minerva Bautista told a local radio station.

The federal government confirmed the police deaths and said a an unknown number of the assailants were also killed in the clash.

Michoacan, the home state of President Felipe Calderon, has emerged as a key battleground in Mexico’s spiraling drug war as the cult-like La Familia cartel fights other gangs and security forces for control of the mountainous state.

At least 23,000 people have been killed in drug violence, mainly traffickers and police, since Calderon launched his army-led crackdown on traffickers on taking office in December 2006.

Local media reported that last Friday was the most violent day yet of Calderon’s presidency with 70 drug-related killings including the group slaying of 19 addicts at a rehabilitation clinic in the northern city of Chihuahua.

The violence frightens away tourists and worries Washington, which is giving anti-drug aid, equipment and police training to Mexico.

Some investors have frozen investment in factories in cities on the U.S. border, especially in Ciudad Juarez, the most deadly flash point in the drug war.

Reporting by Miguel Angel Gutierrez; Writing by Robert Campbell