MORELIA, Mexico – Two Mexican soldiers were killed Friday when suspected members of a drug cartel ambushed an army patrol in the western state of Michoacan, authorities said.
The attack took place shortly after sunrise in a rural area near the town of Ecuandureo, the state Attorney General’s Office said.
Assailants armed with assault rifles opened fire on troops traveling in two pick-up trucks. Two soldiers died at the scene and two others were taken to a hospital with injuries, the AG’s office said.
The patrol repulsed the attack, but the aggressors got away.
Authorities suspect the ambush was carried out by gunmen from the Caballeros Templarios drug cartel in retaliation for the death of one of the group’s leaders, Rafael Orozco, in a clash with state police on Wednesday.
Mexico’s No. 2 public official, Government Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chang, announced Thursday that President Enrique Peña Nieto had decided to eliminate the post of federal commissioner for security and development in Michoacan.
He shared the news during a public hearing in Morelia, the state capital, to review the strategy the federal government has followed since intervening in Michoacan a year ago amid conflict between organized crime and vigilante groups.
Osorio Chang referred to recent criticism he said was aimed at “politicizing” the status of commissioner Alfredo Castillo ahead of the June 7 gubernatorial and legislative elections in the western state.
The federal intervention in Michoacan met with some success initially, including the arrest of leading figures in the Templarios cartel and the incorporation of many of the vigilantes into an army-controlled Rural Force.
But violence flared in the state again last month, when 11 people died in an incident involving rival factions of the Rural Force