Gunmen armed with AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles and riding in a convoy that included at least ten SUVs and trucks intercepted 20 state police officers near the town of Jilotlán, Jalisco, killing nine, the Mexican newspaper El Informador reported.

Two more police were injured and one is missing. The men blocked the road, lept from their vehicles and opened fire on the police. The firefight that ensued lasted several hours. According to Luis Carlos Nájera Gutiérrez, Jalisco’s Secretary of Public Security, the ambush was likely caused in part by the high numbers of recent arrests made against mid-level members of the Familia Michoacana organized criminal syndicate. One of those recent arrests was Valdemar Hernández Barajas, who formed part of group known as the “12 Apostles of Nazario Moreno,” referring to Nazario Moreno González, alias “El Chayo,” a leader of the Familia. Hernández’s nickname was “El 11,” indicating that he was a core leader of the group. The coordinated attack, along with the lack of any specific suspects, attests to the growing strength of the Familia. The group has reportedly entered an alliance with the Gulf Cartel and Sinaloa Cartel to fight their rivals, the Zetas, and extend their reach.

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