In a record surge of violence, federal police clashed with Familia Michoacana members yesterday in fourteen different municipalities in Michoacán, including the capital city of Morelia.
According to the Mexican daily Excelsior, it was the most violent day that the state has seen in four years. Firefights throughout the state killed at least three federal agents, two gunmen and five civilians, reports the newspaper. The fighting began Wednesday evening and lasted well into Thursday night. According to military spokesman Alejandro Poiré, the worst fighting had occurred in Apatzingán and Morelia, two cities where several commanders of the Familia are in prison and awaiting trial.
Presumed members of the Familia held road blockades at all four entrances into Morelia. As of Friday morning, the government reported that at least 28 vehicles were damaged in the attacks, 16 burned and 12 riddled with bullets. Local paper El Sol de Morelia reports that groups of gunmen moved traveled in several vehicles and appeared to stop cars, taxis and trucks at random, setting many on fire, sometimes before hundreds of shocked commuters.
When police engaged the gunmen during one blockade at 3:15 p.m., the Familia fought back with grenades and long-range guns. The shootout left three police agents injured. Morelia essentially shut down on Thursday, and a five-kilometer traffic jam extended outside the city. Other witnesses reported seeing gunmen armed with AK-47s.
The Mexican press floated rumors that the shootout had possibly killed Nazario Moreno González, alias "El Chayo," leader of the Familia. The rumors have yet to be confirmed by authorities.
Elected municipal officials voiced concerns that the blockade proved the Familia is more organized and better armed than the local security forces.