Mexico police chief shot in possible assassination attempt

Gunmen wounded the Mexico City police chief on Friday and killed two of his bodyguards and a passerby, in a blatant ambush in his vehicle while traveling through a wealthy neighborhood that houses ambassadors and business leaders.

Police chief Omar García Harfuch tweeted hours after the shooting that the powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel was to blame. García Harfuch, who said he had been shot three times, was recovering in a Mexico City hospital. A dozen people were arrested after the shooting.

The dawn attack further punctured the image of Mexico City within the country as an oasis largely protected from the appalling violence that has affected other parts of Mexico.

If investigators can prove that a cartel organized Friday’s attack as an assassination attempt, it would signal a new front in the battle between security forces and organized crime. It would also offer more evidence of the government’s inability to curb criminal groups that exert great influence over large swaths of Mexico, security experts said.

“This is a dramatic violation of what would be considered one of the most protected and safe areas in the city,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, an expert in organized crime at the Brookings Institution. “It is a massive tactical lapse to allow a government official of this importance to end up with three bullets in her.”

Mexico City has become more dangerous in the past decade, with an increase in murders, kidnappings, and extortion. But while gangs in the city have gained steam, they are far less powerful than the cartels that control drug trafficking and operate largely outside the capital.

“If the group involved is in fact the Jalisco cartel, it is a sign that they are willing to enter into a direct confrontation with the state,” said Alejandro Hope, a security analyst in Mexico City, who noted that this would be the first assassination attempt against such a high-ranking security official in Mexico City.

Since taking command of the city’s police force last year, Garcia Harfuch has led a more aggressive crackdown on organized crime and examined collusion between law enforcement officers and criminal groups.

Claudia Sheinbaum, the mayor of Mexico City, said at a press conference that the government was “on alert”, monitoring the increase in violence and recruiting the national guard to support local police. The mayor said he has not received any death threats.

Mexico’s security minister Alfonso Durazo Montaño told reporters that three other government officials faced threats, although he did not offer details. He said there was no immediate indication that the attackers had internal knowledge of Mr. García Harfuch’s route of travel on Friday.

This is the second high-profile attack on a public official in Mexico this month. Last week, Uriel Villegas Ortiz, a federal judge, he was shot dead at his home in the state of Colima. His wife, Verónica Barajas, also died in the attack.

Mr. Durazo Montaño confirmed on Friday that “a preliminary hypothesis” suggests that the New Generation Jalisco Cartel was involved in the shooting of the judge and his wife.