Two men were arrested for allegedly participating in an ambush that killed 12 federal police officers in one of the worst drug-cartel attacks on Mexican government security forces, authorities said on Thursday.
The suspects, Alain Escutia, 20, and Emilio Palacios, 22, belong to La Familia, one of Mexico's newest and most brutal cartels, said Ramon Pequeno, chief of the Federal Police's anti-narcotics division.
He said the two confessed to participating in the ambush on Monday in Zitacuaro, a town in the Pacific coast state of Michoacan, La Familia's home base.
Investigators believe reputed kingpin Nazario Moreno ordered the ambush in retaliation for recent arrests of La Familia members, Pequeno said.
He said a cartel lieutenant met on Monday with 35 gunmen at a gas station. The gunmen divided into two groups and headed for two bridges where they waited for the federal police patrol to pass. Pequeno said the two suspects were among a group of 26 who took position on one of the bridges, armed with high-calibre assault rifles and grenades.
They fired at the police patrol for nearly 30 minutes, he said. The police fired back, killing one of the gunmen and wounding several others. The gang members fled before police reinforcements arrived.
Pequeno said police learned the details from several days of intelligence work, although he did not elaborate. Escutia and Palacios were arrested on Wednesday in the Michoacan state capital of Morelia. Pequeno said police arrested the pair because they had "a suspicious demeanour" and their clothes were dirty. He said they were carrying large backpacks in which police later found two assault rifles, a handgun and ammunition. The suspects were paraded before the news media on Thursday, a common practice of Mexican security forces that has been criticised by human rights groups.
Drug violence has killed more than 23,000 people since late 2006, when Calderon took office. Mexican officials attribute much of the bloodshed to turf battles between drug cartels.
On Thursday, police in southern Guerrero state found the bodies of two men who had been tortured.
Guerrero state Public Safety department said in a statement that the men were found in the riverbank of the Balsas river in the town of Tepecoacuilco. One of the victims had been strangled and the other shot, it said.