7 killed in attacks on Mexican police

February 07, 2007|By Hector Tobar and Carlos Martinez | Hector Tobar and Carlos Martinez,LOS ANGELES TIMES

MEXICO CITY -- Gunmen disguised as soldiers attacked two police stations and killed seven people in the resort city of Acapulco, apparently videotaping the killings as they carried them out, according to police and news reports.

Police officials who asked not to be identified said the two stations had been at the center of a dispute between reform-minded state officials and city police suspected of ties to drug trafficking.

The assailants simultaneously entered the police stations disguised as soldiers from a Mexican army unit, a police official said. City police there suspected of ties to drug trafficking had been recently replaced by state police, officials said.

Five state police officers and two secretaries were killed.

According to news reports, each attack was carried out by about eight men armed with assault rifles, including an AK-47-style weapon known as "the goat's horn," a signature weapon of Mexico's drug traffickers.

Acapulco and other cities and towns along Mexico's Pacific Coast are way stations in a market of illicit drugs worth billions of dollars, U.S. officials say. Hundreds of tons of Colombian cocaine are smuggled by ship to Mexico each year, then transported overland to the United States.

Rival drug bands have been fighting for months over control of the trade routes through Acapulco, surrounding Guerrero state, and the adjacent state of Michoacan. More than 2,000 people were killed in Mexico's drug war last year, according to news reports.

Since taking office in December, President Felipe Calderon has sent army troops into both states, and also to Tijuana and the western state of Sinaloa as part of an effort to control drug-related violence. He also ordered the extradition of 15 alleged drug bosses to the United States last month. But drug-related violence appears to have continued unabated.

Last week, two Mexican soldiers were executed in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa. A high-ranking Sinaloa state police official was killed Monday in Culiacan, and assailants attacked a police station in Guerrero with hand grenades.

Yesterday's attacks in Acapulco were carried out with a speed and precision that suggested the involvement of professionals. The two police stations were about two miles from Acapulco's tourist center and near the port, an impoverished area notorious as a center of drug transshipments.

According to reports, the attackers arrived at the first station in sport utility vehicles, entered and shot a secretary, a police officer and the station commander. Witnesses said at least one of the attackers was recording the operation with a video camera.

The second attack unfolded less than a mile away, with one of the assailants asking, "Is everyone here?" before opening fire. A secretary and three police officers were killed.

Hector Tobar and Carlos Martinez write for the Los Angeles Times.

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