Shootouts across Mexico leave 22 dead


View of thousands of ammunitions to be destroyed in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua State, Mexico on February 16, 2012. At least 6000 rifles and pistols seized from drug cartels were destroyed by members of the Mexican Army.



Shootouts thought to be started by organized criminals in Mexico's Michoacan state on Tuesday left 22 dead, including two federal police officers and 20 criminals.

"So far, we have two federal police killed, 20 presumed criminals shot dead and another 15 people under arrest," the Interior Ministry's National Security Council said in a statement.

Another 15 officers were injured when gunmen hid in hills above checkpoints and blocked roads in at least six different areas of Michoacan state before swooping down on their targets and ambushing police patrols.

Attackers that hit in the Tierra Caliente region, which is plagued by gang violence, were equipped with high-powered rifles and grenades.

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Fighting between federal police and the Knights Templar — the state's dominant cartel that is known for its drug operations and widespread campaign of extortion, rape and killing of everyday citizens — has intensified over the past week. At least four police officers have been killed in shootouts in Michoacan since Thursday.

Armed "self-defense" groups have risen up to fight the cartel in recent months, leading to the deployment of 4,000 soldiers and marines and 1,000 federal police officers.

In May, the Mexican government promised to keep the troops in Michoacan, which has 4.3 million residents, until peace is restored and the state government can hold its own.

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