Assailants carried out a new attack on the property of Mexican snack firm Sabritas, a unit of U.S. soft drinks and snack foods giant PepsiCo, injuring a driver in a gasoline bomb attack on a delivery truck, officials told Efe Friday.
The attackers are apparently linked to the Los Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) gang, which on Thursday claimed responsibility for firebombings last week targeting more than 40 Sabritas delivery vehicles and five distribution centers in the west-central states of Michoacan and Guanajuato.
Sources with Michoacan's Public Safety Secretariat told Efe the latest attack occurred around 9:30 p.m. Thursday on a rural road that links Morelia, the state capital, with the small town of Quiroga.
Hooded assailants armed with assault rifles intercepted the Sabritas vehicle near the hamlet of El Correo, about five kilometers (three miles) from Quiroga, doused it with gasoline and set it on fire.
The driver suffered burns on his hands and needed hospital care but is reportedly out of danger.
Hours prior to this latest incident, the Caballeros hung banners claiming responsibility for firebomb attacks on five Sabritas distribution centers on May 25 and 26 - three in Michoacan and two in the neighboring state of Guanajuato.
The Caballeros said in their message that federal intelligence agents have used Sabritas trucks in investigating the gang, which was created in March 2011 by former members of the La Familia Michoacana, until then Michoacan's dominant criminal organization.
Since its founding, the Caballeros have come to dominate the drug, kidnapping and extortion businesses in that state.
President Felipe Calderon's administration has dispatched more than 2,000 soldiers in recent days to Michoacan, his home state, in a bid to bolster security there.
Calderon has deployed tens of thousands of troops across the country since his inauguration in late 2006, a strategy that has led to headline-grabbing captures of cartel kingpins but thus far failed to stem sky-high levels of drug violence.
More than 50,000 people have been killed in turf battles among the cartels, shootouts between mob enforcers and the security forces and other drug-related violence since he took office.
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.
Mexico's numerous cartels are known to supplement their drug-trafficking income by running extortion rackets but they have tended to target smaller businesses as opposed to multinational firms. EFE