MONCLOVA, Coahuila — An ex-general serving as police chief of a northern Mexican city escaped an assassination attempt that killed three of his bodyguards, the latest attack on an official appointed to step up the fight against drug cartels.
Assailants in pickup trucks opened fire on Monclova police chief Juan Carlos Pacheco as he headed home Friday evening, a police statement said Saturday. Pacheco was not hurt but three of the police officers guarding him died.
The federal government deployed soldiers to patrol the city after the attack.
Pacheco, a retired army general, was appointed Monclova’s police chief four months ago. The city in northern Coahuila state is one of many in Mexico that have turned to retired or active military officers for help controlling cross-border drug trafficking.
Pacheco said he could not comment on who might have been behind the attack because it could undermine the investigation.
“We’ve been hit, but we also hit very hard,” he told reporters. “They know very well that we are determined to protect the rule of law for the citizens of Monclova.”
President Felipe Calderon has relied heavily on the armed forces and the federal police in his offensive against cartels, deploying 45,000 military personnel to drug hotspots across the country.
Drug gangs have fought back with brazen attacks on police, soldiers and other government officials.
In April, army Col. Arturo Navarro was shot to death less than three weeks after he took over the local police force in Piedras Negras, a Coahuila city across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas. Four other Piedras Negras police officers, including the deputy chief, were kidnapped last month and remain missing.
In one of the boldest strikes, attackers killed 18 federal agents last month in western Mexico. Authorities said La Familia, one of Mexico’s newest and most brutal drug gangs, killed the agents in retaliation for the arrest of one of its top members.
Federal police announced the capture of an alleged La Familia leader Saturday, Hector Oyarzabal, who was described as director of the gang’s drug operations in several towns of the state of Mexico, which surrounds most of Mexico City.
Officers patrolling the town of Chalco arrested Oyarzabal and seven other suspected cartel members Friday after spotting them with assault rifles, the Public Safety Department said in a statement.
Elsewhere, the dismembered body of a legal adviser for the leftist Democratic Revolution Party was found in an ice box Saturday in Ciudad Altamirano, a town in the southwestern state of Guerrero. A threatening note signed by La Familia was found with the remains of Jesus Arroyo, the Guerrero Public Safety Department said.
In the northern city of Ciudad Juarez, police were investigate the killing of two women and a man found shot to death in their car. A 4-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl were slightly injured from broken glass during the attack Friday, according to a report from the regional prosecutor’s office.