An explosives attack on a police patrol left six people dead and 14 wounded in one of the regions of Mexico worst hit by drug cartel-related violence, authorities said Wednesday.
“It’s an act of brutal terror,” said Enrique Alfaro, governor of the western state of Jalisco.
The attack Tuesday night using seven improvised explosive devices targeted police and staff from the state prosecutor’s office in Tlajomulco de Zuniga, a suburb of the city of Guadalajara, he said.
The region is home to the Jalisco New Generation cartel, one of Mexico’s most powerful and violent drug trafficking groups.
“This is an unprecedented event that shows what these organized crime groups are capable of,” Alfaro said, without accusing a specific organization.
“This attack also represents a challenge against the Mexican state as a whole,” he added.
While firearms are the weapon of choice for cartel members, a car bomb killed a National Guardsman and wounded others in June in Guanajuato, another state hit hard by gang-related violence.
Drug cartels appear to be employing increasingly radical tactics to terrorize security forces, according to experts.
“These are strategies of extreme violence to intimidate the authorities… and the population,” Gerardo Rodriguez, a researcher at the Universidad de las Americas Puebla, a private university, told AFP.
Earlier this month, an explosives-laden drone struck a house in Michoacan, another violence-plagued state, wounding one person.
Similar drone attacks have been reported in other cartel flashpoints.
The objective is to “reduce the firepower of rivals from other cartels as well as the security forces, and provoke terror among the civilian population,” security consultant David Saucedo told AFP, describing such acts as “narcoterrorism.”
The Jalisco New Generation cartel in particular is known for launching brazen attacks against authorities.
In 2015, its gunmen shot down an army helicopter with rocket-propelled grenades, killing members of the security forces.
The police patrol was responding to a report from a member of a group searching for missing relatives who said she had received an anonymous phone call and tipoff about clandestine graves, the governor said.
“It was a trap,” he added.
That version of events, however, was called into question by one such civil society organization in the region.
“This call was never made to us,” Indira Navarro, a member of a collective of mothers of missing persons in Jalisco, told the press, adding that such groups were in close contact.
More than 110,000 people are listed as having disappeared in Mexico, and even looking for them can carry significant risks.
Jalisco has the most missing among the country’s 32 states — around 15,000 since 1962.
Mexico has recorded more than 340,000 murders since the launch of a controversial military anti-drug offensive in 2006, most attributed to criminal organizations.
Also on Tuesday, 13 security personnel who had been taken captive the day before by protesters in the southern state of Guerrero were released after negotiations with authorities.
Officials said the protesters were infiltrated by a criminal group in Guerrero, which has endured years of violence linked to turf wars between drug cartels.
Since taking office in 2018, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has championed a “hugs not bullets” strategy to tackle violent crime at its roots by fighting poverty and inequality with social programs, rather than with the army.