Criminals down police helicopter in Mexico, four dead


Mexico City (AFP)

A gang brought down a helicopter during a police operation in Mexico's troubled western state of Michoacan, killing the pilot and three officers, the governor said.

The aircraft was backing an operation to arrest leaders of criminal groups when the "official helicopter was downed" in an area with rough terrain, Governor Silvano Aureoles wrote on Twitter.

Another officer was injured in the crash.

Aureoles did not say how the helicopter was shot down in the region of Apatzingan, a city located in Tierra Caliente, a region that has been beset by drug violence and vigilante justice for years.

"In accordance to the responsibility to protect citizens, the state and federation won't give up in the frontal fight against crime," the governor wrote.

It is the second time since 2015 that a gang has downed a helicopter in Mexico. Last year, the Jalisco New Generation drug cartel in neighboring Jalisco state used a rocket launcher to hit a military helicopter, killing eight aboard.

In Michoacan, the pseudo-religious Knights Templar drug cartel held sway in Tierra Caliente until lime growers formed vigilante forces in 2013 to fight back against the gang.

The cartel was weakened as authorities arrested or killed its top leaders, but smaller criminal groups have since emerged.