updated 5/19/2007 9:14:33 PM ET 2007-05-20T01:14:33

Assailants shot dead a police commander in a wealthy Monterrey suburb on Saturday, the latest in a wave of killings of law enforcement officials across Mexico.

Mario Sanchez, 47, was killed by gunmen wielding automatic rifles after he finished a night shift in San Nicolas de los Garza, one of Mexico’s most affluent municipalities, Mexican media reported.

Police in Monterrey did not answer calls seeking to confirm the killing.

Gunmen linked to drug-trafficking gangs have been increasingly targeting police and soldiers as President Felipe Calderon wages a national offensive against drug cartels, who make billions of dollars smuggling cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin into the United States.

On Wednesday, a group of about 50 armed men drove into the town of Cananea, near the Sonora border, and killed five policemen and two residents.

The assailants then fled to the hills pursued by police and soldiers and sixteen assailants were killed in the ensuing gunbattles.

‘Silver or bullets’
Sonora Gov. Eduardo Bours said authorities have received information that the assault in Cananea was “some kind of retaliation by the hit men for their betrayal by local police, implying that they had had some kind of deal.”

Mexican officers often face the choice of “plomo o plata,” or “silver or bullets,” meaning they can either take bribes to allow traffickers to operate or risk retaliation. Drug cartels place special emphasis on killing officials who break such deals.

Meanwhile, the leader of a state investigative police team was shot and died Friday in Hermosillo, the Sonora state capital about 200 miles south of Cananea.

Hours later, gunmen also killed the chief of criminal investigations in the Gulf coast state of Tabasco, Raul Lopez Lopez.

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