Drug cartels have unleashed a wave of violence this week in Michoacan, a state in western Mexico that has been the scene of a series of attacks on federal security forces, officials said.
Unidentified gunmen staged six attacks on the Federal Police on Tuesday, with the attacks appearing to have been coordinated.
"This is an ambush, a frontal assault on the Federal Police, generating unusual violence in that state," federal Security Cabinet spokesman Eduardo Sanchez said.
Michoacan is one of the states where the federal government is focusing its security strategy because of the strong presence of drug traffickers.
The western region is a clear example of a failed state, some analysts said.
Cartels like Los Caballeros Templarios, which was founded in March 2011 by former members of La Familia Michoacana and deals in both synthetic drugs and natural drugs, operate in the state.
The gang commits murders, stages kidnappings and runs extortion rackets that target business owners and transport companies, affecting everyday life.
Gunmen opened fire Tuesday from nearby hills on six Federal Police positions, killing two law enforcement agents and losing about 20 of their own men.
Fifteen Federal Police officers were wounded in the attacks, officials said.
Vehicles were used to block the highway that links Morelia to the Pacific coast and the road that connects the coastal highway to the city of Apatzingan, the main base of the Caballeros Templarios, officials said.
No army troops were deployed in the area because their base is about 40 minutes away from the places where the attacks were staged, officials said.
"This situation was taken advantage of by the criminals," Sanchez told Radio Fórmula.
Federal Police spokesmen said Tuesday night that the gunmen were suspected members of Los Caballeros Templarios, but the federal Security Cabinet spokesman did not confirm this information.
The Michoacan Attorney General's Office said four more Federal Police officers died in an attack Wednesday in the town of Pichilinguillo.
The National Security Commission, however, said in a statement released in Mexico City that no new attacks occurred in Michoacan on Wednesday and that the incident in Pinchilinguillo happened a day earlier, when two officers were killed and six others wounded.
The attacks in Michoacan were a reaction to the pressure being put on drug traffickers by the security forces, Sanchez said.
The wave of violence "shows that these people are experiencing a high level of desperation," Sanchez said.
Michoacan's forests and mountains are used by drug traffickers to grow marijuana and produce synthetic drugs. EFE