Monterrey – A group of around 20 men armed with assault rifles attacked city hall and the police headquarters in Los Herreras, a city in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, city officials said Tuesday.
The attack occurred Monday night just after 11:30 p.m. in the rural city, located more than 110 kilometers (68 miles) northeast of Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo Leon.
Initial reports are that the gunmen, who were wearing uniforms and arrived in several SUVs, opened fire with AR-15s on city hall, where police headquarters is also located.
The gunmen then went inside and killed the three officers on duty.
The dead officers were identified as Miguel Angel Torres, Eusebio Muñiz and Andres Ayala.
Investigators found nearly 100 bullet casings from .223-caliber weapons outside city hall.
The gunmen abandoned a late-model vehicle that had been reported stolen recently.
The vehicle’s windows bore the acronym “Z 40,” the nickname of Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, the head of the Los Zetas cartel in Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon and Coahuila states.
The rural area where Los Herreras is located is near the border with Tamaulipas and has been the scene of several killings of police officers and shootouts between the army and drug traffickers.
Nuevo Leon and neighboring Tamaulipas have been rocked by a wave of violence unleashed by drug traffickers battling for control of smuggling routes into the United States.
The violence has intensified in the two border states since the appearance in February in Monterrey of giant banners heralding an alliance of the Gulf, Sinaloa and La Familia Michoacana drug cartels against Los Zetas, a band of Mexican special forces deserters turned hired guns.
After several years as the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, Los Zetas went into the drug business on their own account and now control several lucrative territories.
The cartels arrayed against Los Zetas blame the group’s involvement in kidnappings, armed robbery and extortion for discrediting “true drug traffickers” in the eyes of ordinary Mexicans willing to tolerate the illicit trade as long as the gangs stuck to their own unwritten rule against harming innocents.
Some 5,004 people, or an average of nearly 29 per day, have died in drug-related violence in Mexico this year, the Excelsior newspaper reported Tuesday.