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Ambush in Mexico blamed on drugs cartel kills 15 police officers

Fifteen elite state police officers have been killed in an attack on their convoy in western Mexico. It is the latest in a series of direct assaults against police combatting drug gangs.

The ambush near the village of Soyatan was a well-planned attack involving a large number of gunmen. The highway was blocked by a hijacked vehicle parked across the two-lane road and set on fire to force the convoy to stop.

Authorities reported on Tuesday that five more officers were wounded in the assault. It took place on a twisting rural highway as the convoy carrying the elite state police unit headed to the city of Guadalajara. It appeared the attackers had waited for them in a makeshift encampment for one or two days.

It was the worst single-day loss for Mexican security forces since the start of President Enrique Pena Nieto's two-year-old administration.

The ambush was the latest in a series of attacks in Jalisco state in recent weeks. A federal police convoy was attacked on March 19 and five officers were killed. On March 30 there was an attack on the state security commissioner Alejandro Solorio. On Monday gunmen killed the police chief in the town of Zacoalco de Torres.

"These attacks are a reaction of organized crime after the attack against me," Solorio said.

The commissioner added that the attacks were in retaliation for the March 23 shootout when police killed gang boss Heriberto Acevedo Cardenas, known as "El Gringo."

Jalisco New Generation

Police suspect that the drug cartel Jalisco New Generation was behind the attacks. The group is now among Mexico's most powerful cartels and prepared to carry out direct attacks on authorities. Gunmen from drug cartels in the past have usually only fired on police when when they are being chased, or are trying to evade capture.

Jalisco New General was involved in a conflict with another drugs cartel, the Knights Templar, in neighboring Michoacan state. Police and vigilantes largely dismantled the gang in 2013 and 2014.

In November 2013, Jalisco New Generation was linked to the existence of mass graves found near Lake Chapala, an area popular with Canadian and US tourists.

More than 100,000 people have died or gone missing since Mexico's drug war began to escalate in 2006 with the deployment of troops to combat drug cartels.

jm/mg (AP, AFP)