Three police officers were murdered in Tancitaro, a city in the western Mexican state of Michoacan, by unidentified individuals, a city spokesman told Efe.

Gunmen captured the officers early Tuesday in the city's Pareo district, where the officers had been sent on patrol.

The bodies of the three slain officers were found by other law enforcement agents in El Caracol, an area on the Garachico-Limon de La Luna highway in Tancitaro.

"We are all a bit confused about what really happened, but the only thing I can say is that they were taken around 4:00 a.m. (Tuesday) by a group of unidentified people and the officers' bodies were found around 7:45 a.m.," the city spokesman said.

Investigators are working on the case and bullet casings for different types of weapons were found at the crime scene, the city spokesman said.

The Caballeros Templarios, La Familia Michoacana and Jalisco Nueva Generacion drug cartels have been fighting for control of Michoacan.

The gangs have been battling each other, as well as new armed vigilante groups, known as "community police forces," in different cities.

The Caballeros Templarios gang was founded in March 2011 by former members of La Familia Michoacana and deals in both synthetic drugs and natural drugs.

The cartel has been fighting rival gangs for control of turf and smuggling routes in Guerrero and Michoacan states, both of which are on the Pacific.

Michoacan's forests and mountains are used by drug traffickers to grow marijuana and produce synthetic drugs.

Los Caballeros Templarios is suspected of carrying out murders, staging kidnappings and running extortion rackets that target business owners and transport companies in Michoacan's 113 municipalities, officials said.

French food giant Danone and Mexican pharmaceutical company Grupo Saba have decided to close their plants in Michoacan due to the high level of crime and move their operations to the less violent states of Queretaro and Jalisco, officials said.

Snack food company Sabritas, a unit of U.S. soft drinks and snack foods giant PepsiCo, was the target of several attacks in Michoacan last year.

The state has also been affected by a wave of protests staged by the CNTE teachers union and normal school students opposed to the educational reforms implemented in February by President Enrique Peña Nieto. EFE