Violence in the western Mexican state of Jalisco on Friday killed at least seven after the military launched an operation targeting a drug cartel.
Jalisco Gov. Aristóteles Sandoval said that the violence was a reaction to the federal government's Operation Jalisco, "an operation to get to the bottom of and to be able to arrest all the leaders of this cartel, of this organization."
Sandoval did not name the cartel, but authorities have been locked in an increasingly bloody battle with the Jalisco New Generation cartel. Last month, cartel gunmen killed 15 state police officers in an ambush. It was the bloodiest single attack on Mexican authorities in recent memory.
Jalisco State spokesman Gonzalo Sánchez told Mexican cable news channel Milenio TV that a police officer was killed in one of the clashes around the state in the community of Autlán, about 120 miles southwest of Guadalajara.
Gunmen fired at a military helicopter, forcing it to make an emergency landing about 150 miles southwest of Guadalajara, the state capital. Three soldiers were killed in the attack.
Twelve others — 10 soldiers and two federal police officers — were also injured and three soldiers remained missing, according to a statement from Mexico's defense ministry.
Sandoval declined to reveal the identities of the seven victims. He counted 29 blockades around the state affecting 19 municipalities. He said 11 banks and five gas stations had been attacked and the state remained under a "code red" protocol. Videos circulating on social media showed unidentified men lighting businesses on fire in broad daylight.
Fifteen people had been arrested and there were four armed confrontations, Sandoval said.
Suspected cartel members stopped buses and trucks across key highways in Guadalajara and other cities, snarling traffic at the start of a three-day weekend, as Mexicans took to the road in droves.
Cartel gunmen attempted to assassinate the state security commissioner a week earlier. On March 19, they killed five federal police officers. The security commissioner had said the attacks were revenge for state forces killing a cartel leader.
Violence in Jalisco, one of Mexico's most important states economically, has become an increasing problem for President Enrique Peña Nieto, who took office pledging to pacify the country following years of brutal drug-related violence.
With an economy bigger than Kenya's, Jalisco is home to close to 8 million people and accounts for roughly 6.5 percent of Mexican gross domestic product.
Though the official homicide toll in Jalisco has fallen since Peña Nieto took office in December 2012, the president identified the state as one of the areas most at risk when he set out plans to improve security in Mexico last November.