MEXICO CITY – Armed men led a trap in a Mexican convoy on Thursday that led a security patrol southwest of the capital, killing 13 prosecutors and police officers in what appeared to be the deadliest assault on Mexican law enforcement in more than a year.
The attack was a major setback for the government’s security forces and another reminder of the serious security challenges facing President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The president took office in 2018 and promised to make Mexico a safer place, but he has yet to make a significant dent in the violence that has long plagued the country.
Rodrigo Martínez Celis Wogau, Mexico’s security minister, called the ambush an insult to the Mexican state and promised to ‘respond with total force’.
The convoy patrolled Coatepec Harinas, about 40 km southwest of Mexico City, the capital, on Thursday to “fight criminal groups operating in the region”, said Mr. Martínez added in a video statement posted on Twitter.
The death toll has risen to eight police officers from the department of Mr. Martínez, including the Security Secretariat, as well as five representatives from the office of the state’s attorney general, officials said.
The attack was apparently the deadliest assault on Mexican law enforcement agents since October 2019, when gunmen killed 14 police officers in the state of Michoacán.
According to Causa and Común, a Mexican anti-corruption group that focuses on public safety, the 86 police officers killed this year added on Thursday.
Last year was the deadliest year for police since the group followed up deaths in 2018, with at least 524 officers killed.
Like most crimes in Mexico, most police killings go unpunished, security analysts say.
“The feeling that remains is that it is possible to attack an agent of the state without consequences,” said Alejandro Hope, a security analyst in Mexico. “If we can not protect the lives of the police, how can we ask them to protect ours?”
The federal government responded immediately to the killings on Thursday by deploying elements of the marines, the military and the national guard to the area, Mr. Martinez said.
Officials made no immediate comment about potential suspects in the attack.