Just days ahead of the Pope’s arrival in Mexico gunmen in the western part of the country ambushed and killed a dozen policemen and seriously wounded another eleven. The ambushed police officers were attacked as they searched for bodies following the discovery of ten severed heads in Teloloapan, a town near the beach resort of Acapulco.
The March 18 ambush amounted to the worst mass killing of policemen since June 2010 when a dozen officers were slain during an ambush on a police convoy in the central coastal city of Zitacuaro.
The ambush came just hours after security forces were tipped off by an anonymous phone caller about the beheadings. The caller said the heads had been dumped outside the municipal slaughterhouse. According to a statement issued to the press by the state Attorney General’s Office (PGJE) ten severed heads were found subsequently by police and soldiers.
Two narco-messages were found by the severed heads. One read: “This is going to happen to all who keep supporting the FM.”
The abbreviation FM is thought to refer to the cartel La Familia Michoacana, which splintered last year after several of its top leaders were either captured or killed by security forces, including the cartel’s overall leader Nazario Moreno’s, who died in a shootout with federal police in December 2010.
Teloloapan, which has a population of about 20,000, is in a steamy, mountainous area known as Tierra Caliente which cuts across Guerrero and Michoacan states. Tierra Caliente has long been a haven for drug traffickers.
In 2010, nine police officers were kidnapped in Teloloapan. The bodies of eight of the officers were found later, six of who had been had been dismembered. After that incident, federal and state authorities mounted Operation Warrior Insurance, a coordinated law-enforcement effort involving the military and state and local police forces which is still ongoing.
In the last few months, the remnants of La Familia, which was once the largest suppler of methamphetamines to drug dealers in the United States, have been locked in a vicious turf war with rival cartels, notably a faction of former members known as Los Caballeros Templarios.
Last year, Guerrero state saw a dramatic increase in violence and, according to federal Ministry of Public Security figures, between January to March in 2011 there were 170 drug-related slayings in the state 60 percent of which occurred in Acapulco. The first two months of this year and there have been 292 murders in the state.