Seven people, including two police officers, have lost their lives after gunmen opened fire on a police convoy in western Mexico on Tuesday, authorities said.
The police force was on patrol when they came under a sudden hail of bullets and grenades by a group of attackers on a road near Apatzingan in Michoacan state, officials said.
Five other police officers were wounded and another went missing in the confrontation on the outskirts of Apatzingan, the state prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
Police and soldiers were searching for the missing officer, the state prosecutor’s office said.
Hours before the shootout police had been at ranch known as the Fortaleza de Anunaki, a former bastion of the Knights Templar gang.
Apatzingan is a former stronghold of the Knights Templar drug cartel, a gang that ruled over much of Michoacan state for years, controlling politics, agriculture and mining through tactics until local people formed self-defence militias in 2013.
The drug cartel made a living by trafficking methamphetamines to the US and tapping Michoacan’s iron ore mines, exporting the metal to China.
In February, Mexico captured one of the country’s most-wanted drug lords, Servando “Lula Tuta” Gomez without a shot being fired.
The government also deployed a special operation to combat the cartel and captured its many top leaders.
The militias were transformed into a “rural force” after given weapons by the government last year, but the armed forces have been marred by rivalries and mutual accusations of criminal accusations.