A group of suspected cartel gunmen have kidnapped five police officers in the southwestern Mexican state of Michoacan, officials said.
Mexico’s army and federal police are conducting an operation near Michoacan’s border with the neighboring state of Jalisco to track down the kidnappers and rescue the officers, said the state’s Public Safety Secretariat Monday.
Witnesses spotted the police officers being abducted Sunday in the municipality of Vista Hermosa by a group of hooded men traveling in several vehicles and wielding assault rifles, the secretariat said.
Seeing they were outnumbered and outgunned, the police surrendered their weapons without resistance and were driven away by one of the gunmen in a police vehicle.
The other gunmen drove alongside and escorted the victims through rural roads to avoid detection by the federal police or army.
The secretariat identified the abducted police as Jorge Briseño Rincon, Ruperto Rincon Hernandez, Rogelio Gutierrez Rincon, Jose Tavares Guzman and Juan Manuel Santos Tapia.
The state Attorney General’s Office included the eyewitness testimony in the case file and is analyzing which complaints and incidents the kidnapped police responded to in recent days in a bid to identity the criminals and determine their whereabouts.
Vista Hermosa is one 113 municipalities that make up Michoacan, where the Los Caballeros Templarios cartel has been waging a turf battle over drug-trafficking routes with La Familia Michoacana, Los Zetas and other gangs.
Coveted by drug gangs for its Pacific coastline and home to clandestine marijuana and opium poppy fields, Michoacan is a key entry point for South American cocaine, as well as chemicals used to manufacture synthetic drugs at laboratories tucked away in the mountains.
More than 80 homicides have been committed since the start of the year in the state, one of the flashpoints in a drug war that has left tens of thousands dead in recent years.