MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A Mexican vice admiral was killed on Sunday in an ambush on a rural road in the western state of Michoacan, where the president has sent military forces to regain control of areas dominated by waring drug gangs.
Assailants armed with high-caliber rifles killed Vice Admiral Carlos Salazar, who commanded the naval base at the Pacific beach resort of Puerto Vallarta, along with another officer, the navy said in a statement.
The men were attacked after they were diverted onto a country road from a major highway running between the state capital of Michoacan and Guadalajara, the capital of Jalisco state that is home to Puerto Vallarta.
Local media reported a group of demonstrators had blocked the highway. Michoacan has seen a surge of protests and armed vigilante groups that have risen up this year, claiming authorities are failing to stop gang violence and extortion.
President Enrique Pena Nieto admitted late Thursday that organized crime controlled areas of Michoacan, but he pledged to restore order in the same state were his predecessor Felipe Calderon launched his military campaign against drug gangs.
Hundreds of federal troops have poured into Michoacan since last week, joining forces that Pena Nieto has deployed there. In May, he put a general in charge of all police and military operations in the state.
Pena Nieto took office in December promising to reduce violent crime after Calderon spent six years struggling to contain rampant drug-related violence that has claimed more than 70,000 lives since 2007.
Reporting by Adriana Barrera and Lizbeth Diaz; Editing by Stacey Joyce