The Federal Police has deployed an additional 600 officers in the western Mexican state of Michoacan, where several shootouts involving drug gangs and the security forces have occurred in recent days, a Public Safety Secretariat official told Efe.

The officers' mission is to bolster security in the area and allow the agency to rotate personnel around Mexico, the official said.

The Federal Police units deployed in Michoacan have 20 armored vehicles, 30 all-terrain SUVs, two Black Hawk helicopters and a communications support vehicle.

The officers arrived in Morelia, the capital of Michoacan, just after 4:30 p.m. on Monday and went immediately to the Federal Police's operations base.

The officers will be sent to Apatzingan, a city located in the Tierra Caliente region and some 120 kilometers (about 75 miles) from Morelia, Federal Police sources told Efe.

The Federal Police's mission is to arrest Los Caballeros Templarios drug cartel leaders Dionisio Loya Plancarte, Enrique Plancarte Solis and Servando Gomez Martinez.

The three suspects are believed to be hiding in the mountains around Apatzingan.

Federal security forces launched an operation last Friday in Apatzingan, considered the main stronghold of Los Caballeros Templarios.

Five suspected criminals died in the operation and several officers were wounded.

Federal Police officers, with support from Black Hawk helicopters, battled cartel gunmen armed with fragmentation grenades, AK-47 assault rifles, AR-15 assault rifles and .50-caliber Barrett rifles capable of penetrating armor.

Several highways in Michoacan were blocked and at least 30 vehicles were riddled with bullets and torched by suspected Caballeros Templarios members, who responded with a wave of attacks on Saturday in Guanajuato state.

Cartel members used assault rifles and Molotov cocktails to burn gasoline stations and vehicles in several cities in Guanajuato.

Los Caballeros Templarios was founded in March 2011 by former members of the La Familia Michoacana drug cartel and now controls drug trafficking in Michoacan. The cartel has now expanded into Guanajuato. EFE