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Army troops arrested three men suspected of being linked to the killing of an admiral over the weekend in the western Mexican state of Michoacan, officials said Monday.

"Members of the National Defense Secretariat captured three" subjects who were allegedly involved in the attack on Vice Adm. Carlos Miguel Salazar Ramonet, federal security spokesman Eduardo Sanchez told MVS radio.

The three suspects, who were arrested for the killing of Salazar Ramonet and his bodyguard, have confessed to the murders, Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said.

The three men told investigators that they were members of the Caballeros Templarios drug cartel, Murillo Karam said.

Salazar Ramonet, commander of the 8th Naval Zone, and his bodyguard were killed Sunday on a rural road by gunmen.

Initial reports out of Michoacan on Sunday speculated that the Caballeros Templarios, a criminal organization with a strong presence in the state, may have been behind the ambush and killing of the navy officer.

The three suspects "stated that they are members of a criminal organization ... that calls itself 'Caballeros Templarios,'" Murillo Karam told reporters.

The men told investigators that they were paid 7,500 pesos ($600) per month "to rob, extort and carry out kidnappings, among other crimes," the AG said.

The suspects have been identified as Timoteo Vargas Infante, Jose Trinidad Arroyo Regalado and Ramiro Barajas Alvarado, Sanchez said.

The men were in possession of four assault rifles and ammunition at the time of their arrest, Sanchez said.

The admiral's wife and his driver were wounded in the ambush, a Michoacan Attorney General's Office spokesman told Efe on Sunday.

Drug gangs have recently stepped up their attacks on federal security forces in Michoacan.

The admiral was off duty and returning from Mexico City to Jalisco state, where he was based, when the ambush occurred, media reports said.

Salazar's vehicle was forced off the highway that links Mexico City to Morelia, the capital of Michoacan, and on to "a second tier road," the Navy Secretariat said.

The highway was blocked by a group of truckers who had apparently been forced to do so by drug traffickers, officials in Morelia, the capital of Michoacan, said.

The admiral's automobile was on an unpaved road that runs parallel to the highway when it was attacked in the city of Churintzio by gunmen traveling in SUVs, the secretariat said.

Four Federal Police officers were killed and 21 others wounded last week in attacks believed to have been staged by the Caballeros Templarios drug cartel in Michoacan.

Michoacan is one of the states where the federal government is focusing its security strategy because of the strong presence of drug traffickers.

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.

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