Image: Mexico City airport police
Gregory Bull  /  AP
Members of a newly assigned police force take part Monday in a presentation ceremony at Mexico City's international airport.
updated 3/2/2009 8:32:01 PM ET 2009-03-03T01:32:01

More than 800 federal and local police have been assigned to improve security in and around Mexico City's international airport after a series of armed robberies against travelers who exchanged money there, authorities announced Monday.

Mexico City Attorney General Miguel Mancera said 460 additional city police officers have been assigned to patrol the areas surrounding the airport. Federal police have added 350 new agents to the airport since December, said Federal Police Commissioner Rodrigo Esparza.

At least 18 people have been robbed recently outside the airport. They apparently were followed after doing business at the currency exchanges inside, according to city prosecutors.

Five of the victims were foreigners, including a French scientist who was shot and killed in January after assailants intercepted his car and stole 4,800 euros ($6,336).

Meanwhile in the western state of Michoacan, attackers threw grenades at a city police chief's house and a police station on Monday in the city of Uruapan, injuring four officers, a state prosecutor said.

Uruapan is one of many cities struggling with increasing drug violence. There were two other grenade attacks against police stations there in February.

More than 1,000 people have been killed so far this year in Mexico as drug gangs battle each other for territory and fight off a government crackdown.

Also Monday, Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna said that police are using trained dogs to search for a pit in which an Italian businessman kidnapped in June was reportedly buried after being killed by his captors.

Italian Claudio Conti was a longtime resident and business owner in the southern Pacific coast resort of Puerto Escondido. A man who allegedly helped kidnap Conti told investigators the businessman was ordered to be killed and buried in a pit in the area.

Garcia Luna also said police have set up a special program to protect businessmen against extortion and kidnap attempts, which have risen amid the wave of violence. He said the program would include a system to make it easier for businessmen to report threats.

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