At least 43 people have lost their lives in clashes between armed civilians and security forces in western Mexico, officials say.
The intense shootout, which occurred on Friday morning in the municipality of Tanhuato, in the state of Michoacan, claimed the lives of “42 suspected criminals and one federal police officer,” a federal government official told AFP.
According to Michoacan Governor Salvador Jara, the clash broke out when security forces stopped a suspicious vehicle, prompting its passengers to shoot.
“This was the beginning and then it evolved because the preliminary report I have is that those who were attacking were numerous,” Jara told Radio Formula, adding that he could not confirm the death toll.
He added that it was “very probable” that the Jalisco New Generation drug cartel was involved, yet the attack was under investigation and the identity of the slain armed men has not been known yet.
The security forces chased the gunmen into a nearby ranch where the clashes continued, a federal police commander told AFP.
About 500 federal forces and troops are guarding the ranch, he added.
The region between Michoacan and Jalisco state is considered as a stronghold of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, which has carried out a number of large-scale attacks against federal and state forces in recent weeks and has killed over two dozen forces since March.
That lopsided toll in what Mexico is calling a shootout in an area between Ecuandureo and Tanhuato, Michoacan state, is raising suspicions among locals, some analysts, and social media users about another possible state-led massacre of civilians in Mexico.
In the last year, Mexico has seen three massacres of mostly unarmed civilians at government hands — the Ayotzinapa student killings, the Tlatlaya warehouse massacre, and the slaughter of unarmed people in Apatzingan, also in Michoacan. These cases led to the United States military to begin doubting its billions in aid to Mexico’s fight against the drug cartels.
A major campaign pledge of Mexican President Enrique Nieto, who took office in December 2012, was to rid Mexico of gang violence, which has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people in the country since 2007. However, the stream of killings has continued unabated.