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Seven dead as gunmen attack police convoy in western Mexico

Seven people including two police officers have been killed in an ambush as they left the former stronghold of the Knights Templar drug gang in western Mexico. Their vehicles were hit with grenades.

The police convoy was ambushed early Tuesday on a road near Apatzingan in Michoacan state in western Mexico.

Officials say there was a sudden hail of bullets and grenades from dozens of attackers about an hour after midnight.

Gunmen opened fire and torched vehicles killing five civilians and two policemen. They returned later to set fire to the vehicles.

Five other police officers were wounded and another went missing during the confrontation.

Police and soldiers were searching for the missing officer according to the state prosecutor's office.

Apatzingan is a former stronghold of the Knights Templar drug cartel which terrorized Michoacan state for years until farmers formed self-defense militias in 2013. A special government operation was then deployed and the gang's top leaders were captured.

Police had been at a ranch known as the Fortaleza de Anunaki, a former stronghold and meeting place of the Knights Templar gang which is about half an hour from Apatzingán. The five-hectare ranch was built for gang leader Nazario Moreno González who was killed in January 2014.

The ranch was designed for the gang's relaxation and amusement. It included a casino, a cock-fighting square and a rodeo arena with seats for a thousand people.

The disintegration of the gang has left smaller groups fighting each other over territory.

Apatzingán Mayor Alejandro Villanueva del Río conceded on Tuesday that due to the drug gangs' presence in the area, "things aren't good" in the town.

jm/bw (AP, AFP)

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