Monterrey, Nuevo Leon - Suspected cartel hit men killed five police and wounded another in two separate attacks in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, which has been gripped in recent months by a wave of gangland violence.
The first attack occurred on a highway linking the northern industrial hub of Monterrey with the city of Saltillo, when assailants fired at federal agents who were inspecting a trailer, officials said Wednesday.
Two police were killed and a third was wounded and taken by paramedics to a local hospital.
Miles away on the same highway, armed men seized heavy vehicles and used them to barricade several intersections to prevent police forces from arriving on the scene, a strategy that caused huge traffic jams.
Army soldiers and federal police set up roadblocks on all highways into Monterrey and deployed at least four helicopters to locate the gunmen.
Two hours later, on a highway that links Monterrey to the suburb of Santiago, gunmen riding in a moving vehicle fired at three municipal police officers inside an automobile.
All three officers were killed, while two civilians were also wounded by the gunfire.
Nuevo Leon and neighboring Tamaulipas have been racked by violence in recent months, as drug cartels battle for control of smuggling routes to the neighboring United States.
The current spate of killings in the northeastern border states began when the Gulf drug cartel allied with other groups in a bid to crush Los Zetas, a band of Mexican special forces deserters turned outlaws.
The Zetas began their criminal career as the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, but recently went into business for themselves
Last month, one gunman was killed when 60 Mexican military personnel swooped down on a camp belonging to Los Zetas, the general who coordinated the raid told Efe.
Mexico’s drug war has claimed more than 23,000 lives since December 2006, when newly inaugurated President Felipe Calderon gave the military the leading role against the cartels.