VILLAHERMOSA, MEXICO — Twelve people, including six children, were killed and two others wounded when gunmen attacked three houses where two police officers and their families live in the eastern Mexican state of Tabasco, officials said Sunday.
The massacre occurred in Monte Largo, a rural town located some 52 kilometers (32 miles) from Villahermosa, the capital of Tabasco, state Public Safety Secretariat spokesmen told Efe.
Some 10 gunmen aboard three SUVs attacked the houses, one of which belonged to Carlos Reyes Lopez, a Tabasco Attorney General’s Office major.
The police officer, his wife and three children were gunned down, the officials said.
Reyes was a member of Grupo Modelo, a special unit of high-level officers who investigate kidnapping and organized crime cases, the AG’s office spokesmen said, adding that the unit arrested several gunmen and drug traffickers in recent months.
Authorities said they believed the attack may have been in retaliation for the capture or killings of gunmen and other criminals in clashes with the security forces.
Police found 11 bodies scattered inside and outside the houses, and one victim died while being transported to a hospital in the nearby city of Macuspana.
Officer Celedonio Reyes Lopez, a brother of the slain major, was one of the two people wounded in the attack.
The gunmen caught the family completely by surprise and “had no mercy,” the AG’s office spokesmen said.
Officials in western Mexico, meanwhile, said seven people were gunned down Saturday night inside a new restaurant on the Guadalajara-Tepic highway.
The massacre occurred 88 kilometers (about 55 miles) north of the city of Guadalajara and near Hostotipaquillo, a town close to the border between Jalisco and Nayarit states, Hostotipaquillo police chief Lucio Rosales told reporters Sunday.
“The inauguration event at the Los Agaves restaurant had just ended. And only the owners and workers were still around when armed subjects arrived to carry out the attack,” the police chief said.
The gunmen, who were carrying AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles, arrived in four SUVs and opened fire indiscriminately on the building, Jalisco Attorney General’s Office spokesmen said.
Investigators found some 150 bullet casings outside the restaurant, where five men and two women were killed.
Five other people, including boys ages 14, 11 and 3, were seriously wounded by the gunfire, the AG’s office said.
The wounded were taken to a hospital in Guadalajara, where doctors said they were in critical condition.
Federal agents and police from Jalisco and Nayarit launched operations in the two states to try to capture the gunmen.
Investigators said the gunmen were between 20 and 30, and may belong to “Los Zetas,” a group of army special forces veterans and deserters who work as gunmen for the Gulf drug cartel.
In northern Mexico, the army has arrested a member of Los Zetas who confessed that he paid people in the city of Monterrey to stage a protest last week against the military, officials said.
At least two people were injured Tuesday evening when demonstrators blocking streets to protest the army’s presence in Monterrey clashed with police.
A police officer and a reporter were hit by stones hurled by demonstrators and one arrest was made.
Some 500 people blocked the main streets in the industrial city, which has been plagued by a wave of drug-related violence, to protest the deployment of army troops, the Monterrey Metropolitan Police Department said.
Armed groups linked to the cartels murdered around 2,700 people in 2007 and 1,500 in 2006, with the 2008 death toll soaring to 5,630, according to a tally by the Mexico City daily El Universal.
Since taking office in December 2006, President Felipe Calderon has deployed more than 30,000 soldiers and federal police to nearly a dozen of Mexico’s 31 states in a bid to stem the wave of violence unleashed by drug traffickers.
The anti-drug operation, however, has failed to put a dent in the violence due, according to experts, to drug cartels’ ability to buy off the police and even high-ranking prosecutors.