Mexico forces kill 2 suspects in state energy firm attacks

Reuters

By Lizbeth Diaz

MEXICO CITY, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Mexican security forceskilled two people believed to be involved in a string of attackson electrical installations at the weekend and captured threemore, the government said on Monday.

An unspecified number of substations and gas stations wereattacked and damaged early on Sunday in the troubled westernstate of Michoacan in an attack that temporarily knocked outpower for hundreds of thousands of people.

National security spokesman Eduardo Sanchez said authoritieswere still investigating the attacks but added that two mensuspected of being involved had been killed in a firefight withsoldiers, while three others had been captured.

"These men ... have been hospitalized as a result ofinjuries caused by the flipping over of the car they were tryingto flee in," Sanchez said. It was not immediately clear when thekillings and arrests took place.

He said that power had now been restored to all the affectedregions. Local media said blackouts had plunged into darknessmore than 400,000 people across the mountainous state of some4.4 million.

Mexico stepped up security in the troubled western region inthe wake of the attacks.

Energy Minister Pedro Joaquin Coldwell said security forceshad increased their presence at facilities of the state-runelectricity company the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) andoil monopoly Pemex in Michoacan.

Parts of the state have fallen under the control of criminalgangs who are fighting among themselves and against authorities.

In a radio interview, Michoacan's interior minister, JaimeMares, declined to say who may have been behind the attacks inthe state, where clashes between the powerful Knights Templardrug cartel and rival gangs have sparked much violence.

Raul Benitez, a security expert at the National AutonomousUniversity of Mexico (UNAM), said he believed the strikes hadbeen carried out by the Knights Templar in retaliation forgovernment efforts to crack down on the gang.

"It's a decision to carry out general terrorism," Benitezsaid. "And this will now lead to a very strong response by thegovernment, backed by the population."

Petrol bombs were used in some of the attacks, whichinvolved at least 19 CFE installations, local media said.

Mares said there were no deaths in the attacks, althoughlocal media reported that five suspected cartel henchmen weregunned down by vigilantes in the town of Aguililla near the cityof Apatzingan, a stronghold of the Knights Templar.

Michoacan has been rocked by repeated explosions of civilunrest this year, and protesters have repeatedly blocked majorstreets and highways in the capital and other cities.

Adding to the violence, vigilante groups have sprung up inthe region this year in reaction to what they say is lack ofprotection by state and federal police against the gangs.

President Enrique Pena Nieto in May sent a general to takeover all police and military operations in the state.

Michoacan was where former President Felipe Calderonlaunched his military-led crackdown on drug cartels shortlyafter taking office at the end of 2006.

Though he succeeded in capturing or killing many drug lords,Calderon could not contain the violence between the gangs, whichhas since claimed around 80,000 lives.

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