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A navy vice admiral was killed in an ambush over the weekend in the western Mexican state of Michoacan, which has been rocked by a wave of drug-related violence, officials said.

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

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

The Navy Secretariat issued a statement in Mexico City confirming Salazar's death and that of another member of the service.

Officials did not say who was behind the ambush, but it is presumed that drug traffickers were involved.

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 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.

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.

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