Seven Sinaloa state police officers and four suspected gunmen died in a shootout on a highway in northwestern Mexico, prosecutors said.

Gunmen ambushed the state police officers Monday morning on the Los Mochis-El Fuerte highway in the community of Tetamboca, the deputy attorney general for the northern region of Sinaloa, Louis Alberto Jauss, said.

Ten people were wounded in the shootout, Jauss said.

The officers were traveling to Choix, where police chief Hector Echavarria Islas was murdered last week, the prosecutor said.

The gunmen opened fire on the officers from the brush on the side of the road in the city of El Fuerte, hitting seven of the officers, Jauss said.

State police and army troops, backed by three helicopters, launched an operation to try to find the gunmen.

The wounded were transported in ambulances and state police patrol cars to hospitals in El Fuerte.

About 50 people have been murdered in the past three months in the Choix mountains, where rival cartels have been battling each other for control of the area.

Sinaloa is currently the scene of a bloody turf war among several cartels.

The state is home to the drug cartel led by Joaquin "El Chapo" (Shorty) Guzman, who was arrested in Guatemala in 1993 and pulled off a Hollywood-style jailbreak when he escaped from the Puente Grande maximum-security prison in the western state of Jalisco on Jan. 19, 2001.

The Sinaloa organization, sometimes referred to by officials as the Pacific cartel, is the oldest drug cartel in Mexico and Guzman, considered extremely violent, is one of the most-wanted criminals in Mexico and the United States, where the Drug Enforcement Administration has offered a reward of $5 million for him.

Forbes magazine estimates that Guzman has a fortune of more than $1 billion, making him one of the richest people in the world.

The Sinaloa cartel, according to intelligence agencies, is a transnational business empire that operates in the United States, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the Americas and Asia. EFE