Mexico Navy Vice Admiral Killed Drug War Shootout

Gunmen ambushed and killed one of Mexico’s highest ranking navy officials and the officer escorting him Sunday in the rough western state of Michoacan, authorities said. Two other people were injured in the shooting in an area where a fight between rival drug cartels has caused a new outburst of violence.

The state prosecutors’ office said the attack on Vice Adm. Carlos Miguel Salazar happened on a dirt road near the town of Churintzio. The motive was unclear, but Salazar is the top navy commander in the neighboring Pacific coastal state of Jalisco.

Attacks by Mexican cartels on military personnel have occurred, but are relatively rare. Salazar may be the highest military officer slain since the government began an offensive against the cartels in late 2006.

Navy officials would not confirm whether Salazar was on duty Sunday. Marines are known to carry out operations in Michoacan, but in a smaller capacity than the federal police and army.

Alejandro Arellano, spokesman for Michoacan attorney general’s office, said Salazar’s driver apparently took the dirt road because the main highway had been closed. He said Ricardo Fernandez Hernandez, an officer serving as the admiral’s bodyguard, was also killed. Arellano said a woman and another man traveling in the car were injured.

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