MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The head of Mexico’s National Guard in Zacatecas state was killed on Thursday in a confrontation with gunmen during an operation against organized crime, authorities said.
General José Silvestre Urzúa, one of the highest-ranking commanders of Mexico’s militarized police and head of its Zacatecas branch, has died in the performance of his duties, Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodríguez said on Twitter.
The state prosecutor’s office said Urzúa was killed during a confrontation with gunmen, adding that four members of the National Guard were wounded.
The central state of Zacatecas has become one of the most violent places in Mexico due to conflicts between criminal gangs over drug trafficking. Last year, the state recorded 1,050 murders, about 200 more than in 2020.
Lawmakers last month approved extending the role of the military in public safety until 2028 in an effort to curb the violence. Congress also voted to place the National Guard under the control of the military.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador backed the creation of the National Guard after coming to power at the end of 2018, seeking to combat organized crime and end endemic police corruption in its predecessor, the federal police.
(Reporting by Adriana Barrera and Lizbeth Diaz; Editing by Robert Birsel)