Two armed attacks on Monday left at least 16 people dead, including a dozen police officers, in regions of Mexico plagued by violence related to drug trafficking, authorities said.
In the southern state of Guerrero, unidentified attackers targeted a security patrol in the municipality of Coyuca de Benitez, prosecutor Alejandro Hernandez said.
According to preliminary information, 11 members of the municipal police force were killed, he said, adding that the motive for the massacre was being investigated.
A senior state security official was traveling in the convoy when it was attacked, authorities said, without confirming media reports that he was murdered along with police bodyguards.
Security forces were later seen patrolling the area — where several lifeless bodies lay on the ground — as a police helicopter flew overhead.
The second attack, in the neighboring western state of Michoacan, left five civilians dead and two more injured, authorities said.
A group of gunmen attacked a brother of the mayor of the town of Tacambaro, according to the state prosecutor’s office.
A restaurant worker and a member of the police force were among those killed, while the mayor’s brother was wounded, it said.
In a video posted on social media, gunmen were seen opening fire before fleeing in several vehicles.
Mexico is plagued by cartel-related bloodshed that has seen more than 420,000 people murdered since the government deployed the military in its war on drugs in 2006.
Since then, the country’s murder rate has tripled to 25 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Mexico has also registered more than 110,000 disappearances since 1962, most attributed to criminal organizations.
Guerrero and Michoacan are among the country’s most violent areas, due to confrontations between rival drug traffickers and security forces.
Although it is home to the famed coastal resort of Acapulco, Guerrero is one of Mexico’s poorest states.
Violence — particularly targeting low-level officials — often escalates across the country in the run-up to elections. Presidential and parliamentary polls are set to be held next year.
Since taking office in 2018, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has championed a “hugs not bullets” strategy to tackle violent crime at its roots by fighting poverty and inequality with social programs, rather than with the army.