Federal agents and soldiers of the Mexican Army stand guard on a road where alleged drug traffickers attacked federal policemen, leaving at least 20 criminals and two federal agents dead, near Arteag in the state of Michoacan, Mexico, on Tuesday.
MEXICO CITY -- Violent clashes between armed gangs and Mexico's security forces killed 22 people on Tuesday, marking a surge in violence in a chaotic western state where President Enrique Pena Nieto is testing a new security strategy.
The shootouts occurred after gang members blocked highways with buses and other vehicles in Michoacan, one of Mexico's most violent states. Two members of the federal police and 20 gang members were killed, Mexico's Interior Ministry said in a statement.
Pena Nieto in May sent a general to take over all police and military operations in Michoacan, where big swaths of the state have come under the control of criminal gangs who are fighting among themselves and against authorities.
Forensic experts move the body of a federal agent in Michoacan, Mexico, on Tuesday. A high commander of the Federal Police said armed groups of the Los Cabelleros Templarios (The Templar Knights) cartel staged six attacks against agents who patrolled several state roads in Michoacan.
Former President Felipe Calderon launched his military-led crackdown on drug cartels in Michoacan in 2006, beginning an offensive that has killed more than 70,000.
Pena Nieto has vowed to reduce the violence that has exploded in Mexico in the last decade. Since he took office in December, murders have fallen slightly, according to official statistics, but violent crime is still rampant in parts of Mexico.
The Mexican government last week captured the brutal leader of the Zetas drug cartel, Miguel Angel Trevino.
First published July 24 2013, 1:47 AM