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Unseasonal violence leaves 38 dead in Jalisco and Michoacan

December 26, 2012

Christmas cheer was in short supply this year as a wave of violence swept the borders of Jalisco and Michoacan from Sunday to Tuesday.

Additional state police and army personnel have been deployed to reinforce the border between the two states, after a series of clashes and coordinated ambushes left 38 people dead, including at least 11 police officers.

Five policemen were killed and another four were injured – along with one civilian – in the first attack in Briseñas, Michoacan in the early hours of Sunday morning. The assailants reportedly opened fire when police arrived in the area to investigate reports of a traffic accident.

Minutes later, another four officers were killed and three more injured in the nearby town of Ayotlan, Jalisco. In the wake of the attack, 32 of Ayotlan’s 67 police officers resigned, leaving just 35 men to enforce law and order in the municipality.

In a simultaneous attack on the town hall in Degollado on Jalisco’s eastern frontier, gunmen fired off some 1,100 rounds, leaving seven vehicles damaged but no reported casualties.

Three more officers were injured on Sunday in the Jalisco municipality of Quitupan when they were ambushed by gunmen in trucks. Police then found three bodies at the Faisan ranch in Quitupan and the handcuffed corpses of another three men at the Quiringual ranch in the same town. A male from Quitupan who suffered injuries in the attacks was admitted to a private hospital in Guadalajara.

The same day, a man and woman were shot dead on the highway to Jilotlan de los Dolores in southern Jalisco, with a son of the woman also suffering gunshot wounds. Another woman was then shot to death in Jilotlan de los Dolores.

A suspected gunman was found dead in La Barca, Jalisco on Sunday afternoon, while in Michoacan two people were burned to death when their vehicle was set alight in Marcos Castellanos. Three other vehicles were set on fire to form a road block, the Michoacan authorities said.

Authorities later confirmed another four police officers and one civilian were killed in Pihuamo in northwestern Jalisco late Sunday night. The officers were found decapitated, having been abducted by heavily armed men in trucks wearing military uniforms and balaclavas.

Another ten dead bodies were found in Pihuamo on Wednesday, following an apparent shootout between rival gangs the previous night. The Army denied involvement in the incident, which brought the total body count since Sunday up to 38.

No arrests were made and the attacks have yet to be attributed to a specific criminal gang, although the Jalisco Cartel Nueva Generacion and the Knights Templar are considered the most active in the region.

The latter gang, which is based in Michoacan, left banners known as “narcomantas” in the cities of Morelia, Zamora and Uriangato, Guanajuato last week, offering to lay down their arms if President Enrique Peña Nieto takes effective action to curb violent crime in the region.

While most of Jalisco is considered safe for travel, the U.S. State Department warned against all non-essential travel to the area along the Michoacan border in its most recent advisory last month.

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