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Archive for Sunday, September 18, 2005

Police official assassinated in crowded restaurant

September 18, 2005

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— Federal and local police swept across Michoacan on Saturday hunting for the gunmen who assassinated the southern state's head of public safety at a crowded restaurant.

Rogelio Zarazua Ortega, civilian overseer of Michoacan's police force, was shot Friday night as he sat at a table with two dozen friends and relatives. Also gunned down was one of Zarazua's bodyguards.

Federal officials said Saturday they believe the pair were the latest victims in a war between the nation's two most powerful drug cartels fighting each other and the police over lucrative trade in marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine.

More than 215 killings have been carried out in Michoacan by the drug gangs, officials say. Across Mexico, violence linked to cartels has claimed more than 1,000 lives this year, with victims including the police chief in Ciudad Juarez, who was murdered just hours after he was sworn into office in June.

Witnesses said two hit men carried out the slayings Friday night. The men entered armed with AK-47 rifles.

Zarazua was shot at least a dozen times in the chest and neck, according to local reports.

A newspaper reported Saturday that Zarazua had received a series of threats warning him not to "damage the interests" of the drug cartels.

During Zarazua's 11 months in office, Michoacan state police raided seven drug labs and arrested three suspected hit men.

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