Latin America & Caribbean

Mexican Admiral Carlos Salazar killed in Michoacan ambush

Picture of the SUV Vice Adm Carlos Salazar was travelling in at the time of the ambush
Image caption The car the vice admiral was travelling in was riddled with bullet holes

Gunmen have killed one of Mexico's highest ranking navy officials in the western state of Michoacan, where the military is trying to regain control of areas dominated by warring drug gangs.

The authorities have now detained three alleged members of the Knights Templar gang in connection with the killing.

Vice Admiral Carlos Miguel Salazar was ambushed on an unpaved road.

His car had been diverted from the main road by protesters believed to have been hired by the gunmen.

The attack, which happened near the town of Churintzio, comes days after two police officers were killed in another ambush.

"We will work with all speed to arrest and bring to justice everyone responsible for his death of Vice Adm Carlos Miguel Salazar," President Enrique Pena Nieto said.

Deadly diversion

Adm Salazar was travelling on a motorway connecting Michoacan's capital, Morelia, with the state of Jalisco, where he was serving as commander of a naval base in Puerto Vallarta.

The navy said Adm Salazar's driver was forced to take the rural road when he found the road blocked by a group of men apparently protesting.

Gunmen then opened fire on the car, killing the admiral and his bodyguard. The admiral's wife and his driver were injured.

The Mexican navy has landed a number of well-publicised successes against Mexico's powerful drug cartels, including the arrest two weeks ago of leader of the Zetas drug cartel, Miguel Angel Trevino Morales.

There has been a recent spike in violence in Michoacan, with drug cartels fighting the security forces and each other.

On Tuesday, two federal police officers and twenty gunmen were killed when armed groups carried out a series of six co-ordinated ambushes on the security forces.

Police said they suspected a cartel calling itself the Knights Templar, which controls parts of Michoacan state, was behind the attacks.

In May, Mr Pena Nieto sent a general to Michoacan to take over police and military operations in the hope of quelling the violence.

Seventy-thousand people are estimated to have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since 2007.

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