A prolonged shootout between over 100 armed civilians and a dozen police officers in Guerrero, Mexico, has left six dead, another example of how the state's complicated criminal dynamics have helped turn it into the country's epicenter of violence.
On August 23, there was a four-hour confrontation between as many as 150 armed men that authorities said belonged to a criminal group and 12 police officers, reported Milenio. Three gunmen and three police were killed, while two other officers were injured.
The spokesperson for the Guerrero Coordination Group, Roberto Álvarez Heredia, said the violence started when officers on patrol near the small, mountain town of General Heliodoro Castillo were ambushed by a criminal group. Three of the attackers were killed, but over 100 gunmen arrived to continue the assault. Three police officers died and two more were injured over the course of the next four hours, at which time military and police reinforcements arrived on the scene. Helicopters flew in but were reportedly unable to land due to fog and the exchange of gunfire.
"If it weren't for [the military], all of the agents would have been eliminated by the aggressors," said Guerrero Gov. Héctor Astudillo Flores.
Family members of the alleged attackers who died say the individuals were community police officers and members of a local militia called the Union of Towns and Organizations of Guerrero (Unión de Pueblos y Organizaciones del Estado de Guerrero - UPOEG), according to journalists who visited the area shortly after the attack. Authorities responded by saying that there was no evidence that the security forces had mistaken the attackers' identity.
InSight Crime Analysis
The gun battle, and the uncertainty surrounding the identity of the alleged attackers, is emblematic of the type of violence that has made Guerrero the most homicidal state in Mexico for the past three years.
Situated in southwest Mexico on the Pacific coast, Guerrero is the country's principal producer of poppy, and therefore an important supplier for the US heroin epidemic. In past years, perhaps only one or two criminal groups would have controlled the majority of the heroin production in Guerrero. But the fragmentation of Mexico's larger drug trafficking organizations has spawned numerous smaller groups -- like Los Rojos and the Guerreros Unidos -- that frequently engage in bloody and often disorganized turf wars or shootouts with police. Heightening the confusion are the various vigilante or community police groups operating in the remote and lawless parts of Guerrero, such as UPOEG.
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Guerrero registered a homicide rate of 57 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2015, more than four times the national average. The violence has become so persistent and brazen in Acapulco, Guerrero's biggest city and Mexico's most violent, that it is having a negative impact on the city's famous tourism industry.